Brucellosis is a disease of mainly cattle, swine, goats, sheep and dogs. The infection is transmitted to humans by animals through direct contact with infected materials like afterbirth or indirectly by ingestion of animal products and by inhalation of airborne agents. Consumption of raw milk and cheese made from raw milk (fresh cheese) is the major source of infection in man. Most of the fresh cheeses are sheep and goat cheese. Next to this it is considered to be an occupational disease for people who work in the livestock sector. Human-to-human transmission is very rare.

The most rational approach for preventing human brucellosis is the control and elimination of the infection in animals. Pasteurization of milk is another protective mechanism. Vaccination of cattle is recommended for control of bovine brucellosis in enzootic areas with high prevalence rates. The same holds true for goat and sheep brucellosis. Eradication by testing and culling is the way to the elimination of brucellosis in regions with a low prevalence.

Role of WHO

WHO provides technical advice to member states through provision of standards, information etcetera for management of brucellosis in humans and animals. In collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Mediterranean Zoonoses Control Programme (MZCP), WHO tries to support countries in the management of the disease.


The attached excerpt provides WHO recommended standards and strategies for the surveillance, prevention and control of brucellosis. This section is part of a larger document entitled "WHO recommended standards and strategies for surveillance, prevention and control of communicable diseases" developed by the WHO Emerging Diseases and Pandemic Response Department (EPR), in collaboration with the Department Food Safety and Zoonoses (FOS), for major zoonoses involving livestock. Each section, after giving essential information on the main characteristics of the disease and its causative agent(s) and mode of transmission, provides definitions for possible, probable and definite cases of the disease as well as the rational for surveillance and WHO recommended systems for surveillance. Major control and prevention activities in humans and animal hosts are also described. A list of WHO reference materials is provided at the end.