Occupational Safety

Brucellosis (Undulant Fever)

The incidence of brucellosis (PDF), which is caused by Brucella spp., in agricultural species in the United States is low because eradication of the disease (PDF) is emphasized. Recent human cases have been associated with consumption of raw (unpasteurized) dairy products. Foci of infection (PDF) persist in cattle, swine, and ruminant populations. Although zoonotic transmission of the disease (PDF) from those species is not considered important in the laboratory, Brucella suis (PDF) of swine might achieve importance as the use of swine in the laboratory increases. Brucella canis (PDF) in dogs remains a zoonotic hazard in the laboratory animal facility. Canine brucellosis has been identified in dog-production colonies and in 1-6% of dog populations, depending on the geographic area sampled.

Most of the reported human cases of Brucella canis infection have resulted from contact with aborting bitches. Placental tissues from infected dogs are typically rich in organisms. Brucella canis also produces prolonged bacteremia and can be present in the urine of infected animals. Direct contact with the skin or mucous membranes during specimen handling or preparation in the laboratory has resulted in transmission. Aerosol transmission also has resulted in large outbreaks of the disease in the laboratory setting. Human infection with Brucella canis is characterized by fever, headache, chills, myalgia, nausea, and weight loss. Subclinical and inapparent infection can occur.

Preventive measures should be aimed at excluding infected animals from the facility. Serological tests are available for diagnosis. Animal handlers should wear appropriate protective clothing and practice good personal hygiene to prevent transmission. Animal Biosafety Level 3 (PDF) practices, as well as containment equipment and facilities are recommended for animal studies involving Brucella canis, Brucella abortus, Brucella melitensis, or Brucella suis.