Got Milk or Brucellosis?

I’ve often blogged about biological weapons—both those used in the past and those with potential for use in your new thriller plots. The world’s population has certainly been victim to biological warfare in the past.

Viper SnakeIn 184 BC, Hannibal’s warriors hurled pots of deadly viper snakes onto the decks of enemy ships. In the 1100s, bodies of plague and smallpox victims were thrown over the city walls of enemies; and in 1495, Spaniards offered the French wine spiked with leper’s blood. These are but a few examples of the many ancient biologicals used historically in warfare, not to mention the nerve gases developed and used by Germany during the First and Second World Wars.

Today, the world has a plethora of biological agents available in secret government warehouses and there are treasure-troves of lethal weapons that can be used as the focus of intriguing thriller plots.

One such biological agent that I’ve not come across until recently is brucellosis. Farm-AnimalsThis interesting biological is a zoonotic infection, meaning that it’s a disease that can be spread between animals and humans. Six out of ten of the world’s most infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals, and brucellosis is reported to be the most common zoonotic infection.

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease originating mainly from cows—but also from swine, goats and sheep. It’s been known throughout history by various common names, including Mediterranean fever, Malta fever, gastric remittent fever and undulant fever.

One of the main sources of brucellosis infection is consumption of raw milk from farm animals. A 20-year study of the global burden of human brucellosis has determined that 500,000 people worldwide are infected with this disease every year. The areas of the world most affected include Eastern Europe, Asia, Central and South America, and regions of Africa.

SombreroMost of the cases reported in the United States are due to consumption of illegally imported, unpasteurized dairy products (milk and cheese) from Mexico. Approximately 60% of human brucellosis cases in the US now occur in California and Texas.

There is growing interest in brucellosis diagnosis and treatment by the World Health Organization (WHO) because of the growing phenomena of international tourism and population migration, as well as the potential to use the Brucella bacterium as a biological weapon.

Death from a brucellosis infection is rare, but recovery from this debilitating illness can take weeks and up to several months. The initial symptoms of fever and sweats, anorexia and headaches, fatigue to general malaise, and pain in the muscles, joints and spine can progress in severity over time. Serious neurological complications and endocarditis can also occur.

The solution to the global spread of brucellosis in humans is two-fold: 1) the control and elimination of the disease in animals via culling of the infected animals and animal vaccinations; and 2) pasteurization of milk prior to consumption or use in making cheeses and other food products.

I love milk and drink lots of it. But, the next time I see a commercial for “GotGlass of Milk Milk?” I’ll remind myself to be assured that what I consume doesn’t have brucellosis riding along with it.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Biological Poisons, Biological Warfare, Biological Warfare Treatments, Biological Weapons, Bioterrorism, Blog About Poisons in Fiction Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Brucellosis, Brucellosis - A Biological Weapon, Chemical Poisons, Chemical Weapons Discussions, Chemicals Used For Murder, Choosing How a Character Should Die in a Story, Deadly Food, Deciding How to Kill Off a Character in a Novel, Designing Murder Plots, Developing Storyline Ideas, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Food Source Poisons, Foods That Kill, Foods Used For Murder, How to Choose a Murder Weapon for a Plot Idea, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Instruments of Death, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Writing, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Killing With Lethal Microbes, Lethal Agents and Murder, Lethal Biologicals, Methods of Murder, Microbes Used To Murder, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons Discussed, Murder With Food, Neurotoxin Poisons, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, New Methods To Kill Characters in Your Novel, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, Plotting Murder Scenes, Prescription For Murder Blog, Preventing Human Brucellosis, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Plots, Unique Murder Weapons, Ways to Murder, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes, Zoonotic Infections and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Got Milk or Brucellosis?

  1. Jim, great post. Is there a risk of contracting this disease by consuming raw milk products produced in the USA? I know many “health conscious” Americans who swear by raw milk products. Though I still eat cheese and ice cream I have switched over to almond milk.

    • Thanks for your comments and question, Felix. Although the raw milk distribution in the US from US sources is much more regulated than in other countries, there is still that possibility of bacterial contamination without the assurance of pasteurization. Know your product’s source and it’s reputation -> That’s always a good plan. All the best!

  2. Interesting story, James. Thanks for sharing it. Took me back to my years as an agriculture editor for a newspaper and being aware of the constant vigilance the farm community exercised then, always watching for any early symptoms of diseases. Sadly, I have much less confidence in the level of commitment by those running today’s the huge corporate farms where profit trumps everything else.

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