What is brucellosis, the bacterial disease that has infected thousands in China?
As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues, the health commission of Lanzhou City in China announced this week that a leak in a biopharmaceutical company last year caused an outbreak of brucellosis disease. More than 3,000 people have been infected with the disease since and no fatalities have been reported so far.
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that mainly infects cattle, swine, goats, sheep and dogs. Humans can get infected if they come in direct contact with infected animals or by eating or drinking contaminated animal products or by inhaling airborne agents. According to the WHO, most cases of the disease are caused by ingesting unpasteurised milk or cheese from infected goats or sheep.
Symptoms of the disease include fever, sweats, malaise, anorexia, headache and muscle pain. While some signs and symptoms can last for long periods of time, others may never go away. These include recurrent fevers, arthritis, swelling of the testicles and scrotum area, swelling of the heart, neurologic symptoms, chronic fatigue, depression and swelling of the liver or spleen. Human to human transmission of the virus is rare.
The website of the health commission of Lanzhou City mentions a “Brucells antibody-positive incident” that occured at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute on November 28 last year. While in the process of producing a veterinary vaccine for the disease between July 24 and August 20, 2019, the factory used expired disinfectants that caused incomplete sterilisation of waste gas. This waste gas, which was carrying the disease-causing virus, subsequently formed aerosols as a result of which people were exposed.