Brucellosis outbreak infects thousands in China amid coronavirus pandemic

WION Web Team
Beijing, China Published: Sep 18, 2020, 09:27 AM(IST)

Livestock in China Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Health Commission of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, confirmed that 3,245 people had contracted the disease Brucellosis -- caused by contact with livestock carrying the bacteria brucella. Another 1,401 people have tested as preliminarily positive.

Bacterial Disease Brucellosis outbreak in China - Thousands of people in China have tested positive for a bacterial disease -- Brucellosis -- in an outbreak caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company last year.

The Health Commission of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, confirmed that 3,245 people had contracted the disease Brucellosis -- caused by contact with livestock carrying the bacteria brucella.

Another 1,401 people have tested as preliminarily positive for Brucellosis. In total, authorities have tested 21,847 people out of the city's 2.9 million population.

There have, however, been no fatalities reported, the city's Health Commission said. 

The disease, also known as Malta fever or Mediterranean fever, can cause symptoms including headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue. This can even leave men infertile.

Some symptoms can become chronic or never go away, like arthritis or swelling in certain organs, according to the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Brucellosis had been much more common in China in the 1980s, though it has since declined.

Human-to-human transmission of Brucellosis is extremely rare, according to the CDC. Instead, most people are infected by eating contaminated food or breathing in the bacteria -- which seems to be the case in Lanzhou.

The officials said brucellosis outbreak stemmed from a leak at the Zhongmu Lanzhou biological pharmaceutical factory, which occurred between late July to late August last year. While producing Brucella vaccines for animal use, the factory used expired disinfectants and sanitisers -- meaning not all bacteria were eradicated in the waste gas.

This contaminated waste gas formed aerosols that contained the bacteria -- and leaked into the air, carried by wind down to the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, where the outbreak first hit.

People at the institute began reporting Brucellosis infections in November. By the end of December, at least 181 people at the institute had been infected with brucellosis, according to Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua.

The Brucellosis outbreak even spread to Heilongjiang province, where 13 positive cases had worked in the veterinarian institute in August.

By January, authorities had revoked vaccine production licenses for the plant, and withdrew product approval numbers for its two Brucellosis vaccines.

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