Brucellosis is an infection you can catch from unpasteurised milk and cheese or from contact with infected animals. It's very rare in the UK.
How you catch brucellosis
Brucellosis is mainly caught by drinking milk or eating dairy products made from milk from infected animals that has not been pasteurised (heat-treated to kill bacteria).
In rare cases you can also catch brucellosis from:
- eating contaminated raw or undercooked meat
- contact with bodily fluids of infected farm animals such as cows, goats, sheep and pigs, or infected dogs
It's very rare to catch brucellosis from other people.
Symptoms of brucellosis
Symptoms of brucellosis may appear suddenly over 1 to 2 days or gradually over several weeks.
The symptoms can be like flu and may include:
- a high temperature
- loss of appetite
- extreme tiredness
- back and joint pain
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
You have symptoms of brucellosis and:
- you've had unpasteurised milk or dairy products while abroad
- you've eaten raw or undercooked meat
- you work closely with farm animals
- you have a dog imported from abroad
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, although sometimes the infection can return (relapse).
How to avoid getting brucellosis
There's no vaccine against brucellosis for humans, but there are things you can do to reduce your chances of getting it.
avoid contact with livestock and wild animals while travelling in places where brucellosis is a problem
wear protective clothing if working with or handling animals, particularly if they're unwell
put a plaster on any wounds before touching animals
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 disease. Doctors must report suspected cases in humans to the local council or local health protection team.
If you suspect it in animals, you must report it immediately. You can do this by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.
Page last reviewed: 4 October 2023
Next review due: 4 October 2026