China lab leak infects hundreds with bacterial illness

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Thousands of people in northwest China have tested positive for a bacterial disease after a leak from a state-owned biopharmaceutical facility that made animal vaccines last year.

Health officials in Lanzhou City said 3,245 people became infected with brucellosis, a disease often caused by close contact with infected animals or animal products that can cause fever, joint pain and headache.

Another 1,401 people tested positive for the disease early on, and health officials said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.

Chinese authorities found that between July and August last year, a biopharmaceutical facility had used expired disinfectant to manufacture Brucella vaccines for animals – meaning the bacteria in their factory exhausts were not being eradicated.

Contaminated gas from the Lanzhou Chinese Animal Husbandry Biopharmaceutical Factory in Lanzhou formed aerosols containing the bacteria. This was then transported by the wind to the Veterinary Research Institute in Lanzhou, where it infected almost 200 people in December last year.

More than 20 students and faculty members from Lanzhou University, some of whom were at the institute, also tested positive, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The Lanzhou Health Commission said Friday that sheep, cattle and pigs were the most common contributors to the spread of the bacteria.

Transmission of brucellosis from person to person is "extremely rare", according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but some symptoms may recur or never go away.

These include recurrent fever, chronic fatigue, swelling of the heart, or arthritis.

The factory, which apologized earlier this year, has had its license to manufacture brucellosis vaccines revoked, Lanzhou authorities said.

Compensation for patients would begin in batches from October, according to local authorities.

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© 2020 AFP

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China Lab Leak Infects Thousands with Bacterial Diseases (2020, Sep 18)
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