BrucellosisOverview

Brucellosis is an infection you can catch from unpasteurised milk and cheese. It's extremely rare in the UK.

How you catch brucellosis

It's mainly caught by:

  • drinking milk that has not been pasteurised (heat-treated to kill bacteria)
  • eating dairy products, like cheese and ice cream, made from unpasteurised milk

You can also catch it from eating raw or undercooked meat, or from contact with bodily fluids of farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep and pigs. But this is rare.

It's very rare to catch brucellosis from other people.

Symptoms of brucellosis

Symptoms may appear suddenly over 1 to 2 days or gradually over several weeks.

Symptoms of brucellosis are like the flu:

  • a high temperature of 38C or above
  • loss of appetite
  • sweating
  • headaches
  • extreme tiredness
  • back and joint pain

See a GP if you have symptoms of brucellosis and:

  • you've had unpasteurised milk or dairy products
  • you've eaten raw or undercooked meat
  • you work closely with farm animals

Tell your GP if you have recently travelled overseas.

How brucellosis is treated

Brucellosis is usually diagnosed using a blood test.

The infection is treated with a course of antibiotics for at least 6 weeks. It's important to finish your course even if you start to feel better.

You should make a full recovery, and the infection is unlikely to return.

How to avoid getting brucellosis

There's no human vaccine against brucellosis, but there are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting it.

Do

  • avoid contact with livestock and wild animals while travelling in places where brucellosis is a problem
  • wear protective clothing if working with animals
  • put a plaster on any wounds before touching animals

Don't

  • do not drink unpasteurised milk
  • do not eat dairy products, like cheese and ice cream, made from unpasteurised milk
  • do not eat raw or undercooked meat

Report suspected brucellosis

Brucellosis is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect you or someone you know has it, you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

Page last reviewed: 03/10/2017
Next review due: 03/10/2020