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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012 Jun 29;61(25):461-3.

Human exposures to marine Brucella isolated from a harbor porpoise - Maine, 2012.


On February 10, 2012, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) was notified of a positive Brucella culture from a harbor porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) found on the coast of southern Maine. Maine CDC, in consultation with CDC, initiated an investigation of potential occupational exposures of staff members at university A and at diagnostic laboratories known to have handled samples from the porpoise. This report describes the results of that investigation. In humans, brucellosis can cause fever, sweats, headaches, back pains, physical weakness, and sometimes severe infections of the brain, bone, heart, liver, or spleen. Because staff members at university A did not use respiratory protection while handling the porpoise or its specimens, the four exposed staff members were advised to begin immediately a 3-week regimen of rifampicin and doxycycline for antimicrobial prophylaxis, conduct daily fever checks, be monitored for symptoms of acute febrile illness weekly, and have their serum tested for Brucella antibodies immediately and at regular intervals for 24 weeks after the last known exposure. As of June 26, none of the four persons had seroconverted or become ill. The potential for human infection and illness as well as the intensity, duration, and expense of the follow-up recommended for Brucella exposure highlights the need for facilities to develop standard protocols for preventing exposures during the handling of marine mammals, particularly during aerosol-generating procedures.

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