Several thousand people in northwest China have tested positive for brucellosis, a bacterial disease, the Chinese authorities confirmed on Tuesday, in an outbreak caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company last year.
As per the Health Commission of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, 3,245 people have tested positive for the disease, which is reportedly caused by contact with livestock carrying the bacteria Brucella, and according to some reports, it can have the side effect of inflamed testicles and can render some men infertile.
The United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the disease, also known as Malta fever or Mediterranean fever, can cause headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue. While these symptoms may subside, some symptoms can become chronic or never go away, like arthritis or swelling in certain organs.
The CDC said human-to-human transmission in this disease is extremely rare and infection spreads mostly through consumption of contaminated food or breathing in the bacteria -- which seems to be the case in Lanzhou.
According to CNN, the outbreak stemmed from a leak at the Zhongmu Lanzhou biological pharmaceutical factory last year between late July and August. While producing Brucella vaccines for animal use, the factory used expired disinfectants and sanitizers -- meaning not all bacteria were eradicated in the waste gas.
Initially a small number of people were thought to be infected, but testing of 21,000 people has showed the number infections to be much higher. No deaths have so far been reported. “The number is way larger than expected and raised widespread concern over the disease’s spread and its consequences,” reported China’s state-run Global Times newspaper.