By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Some 158 employees of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle may have been exposed to the bacterium, Brucella, prompting antibiotic prophylaxis and medical treatment, according to a KIRO7 report.

Brucella melitensis colonies/CDC

The potential exposure occurred in late June when a Brucella-infected patient (not known at the time) was transferred from another hospital to Harborview for an urgent operation. The potential exposure affected not only the operating room, but also the laboratory after a test tube was dropped.

Infectious disease physician at Harborview, Dr. Chloe Bryson-Cahn said, “Because this does not spread human to human, there is no risk of exposure to any employees who were elsewhere in the hospital … anyone’s family at home, and any of our patients.”

Brucellosis is a contagious disease of animals that also affects humans. The disease is also known as Bang’s Disease. In humans, it’s known as Undulant Fever.

The Brucella species are named for their primary hosts: Brucella melitensis is found mostly is goats,sheep and camels, B. abortus is a pathogen of cattle, B. suis is found primarily in swine and B. canis is found in dogs.

The more common ways people get infected with brucellosis include: First, individuals that work with infected animals that have not been vaccinated against brucellosis. This would include farmers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians.

Related: College microbiology classes linked to Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak

They get infected through direct contact or aerosols produced by the infected animal tissue. B. abortus and B. suis are most common.

The second way is through ingesting unpasteurized dairy products.

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There have been several cases of domestically acquired brucellosis from people who have eaten Mexican cheese made from unpasteurized goat milk.

In the U.S., brucellosis has decreased over the decades due to vaccination of young animals and the slaughter of the sick ones.

Brucellosis is also an occupational hazard to laboratory workers who inappropriately handle specimens or have an accident or spill. Brucella is highly infectious in the aerosolized form.

If someone gets infected with Brucella, the incubation period is about 2-3 weeks, though it could be months. Fever, night sweats, severe headache and body aches and other non-specific symptoms may occur.

Acute and chronic brucellosis can lead to complications in multiple organ systems. The skeletal, central nervous system, respiratory tract, the liver, heart, gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts can all be affected. Untreated brucellosis has a fatality rate of 5%.