New outbreak reported in China: thousands infected by highly infectious bacteria that comes from animals
10/24/2020 // Evangelyn Rodriguez // Views

China is on the verge of grappling with another potentially massive outbreak. According to The Epoch Times, a highly infectious bacterial disease called brucellosis is spreading to farms in neighboring Shaanxi Province, and even as far as Inner Mongolia. The disease initially took hold in China’s northwest Gansu Province last year after a botched sanitation procedure by a biopharmaceutical company.

The brucellosis outbreak was reported by local officials in July last year, several months ahead of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan that quickly spread across the globe and continues to force many countries into nationwide lockdowns. Just last month, Chinese media outlet Caixin reported that brucellosis, which can be transmitted from animals to humans, has already affected 10 residential communities within a 1-kilometer radius of Lanzhou city, where the outbreak was said to have originated. The city’s health commission has recently confirmed more than 3,000 positive cases of brucellosis, while the number of infected individuals in Inner Mongolia is yet to be confirmed.

Brucellosis and what caused the outbreak in China

Brucellosis, also known as Malta fever, is a persistent infection caused by bacteria belonging to the genus Brucella. These pathogens mainly infect cattle, swine, goats, sheep and dogs, and is usually caught by humans when they consume products that came from infected animals. According to the World Health Organization, brucellosis can also be transmitted via contact with blood, urine and other secretions from animals with the disease, but human-to-human transmission is very rare. Brucella bacteria can also spread through the air, and treatment for brucellosis can take several weeks or months, with a high possibility of recurrence.


On September 15, the Gansu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention released an update regarding the current situation in Lanzhou city. Provincial and local authorities investigating the cause of the outbreak traced the Brucella leak to the Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Plant, a state-owned pharmaceutical factory tasked to develop animal vaccines. Investigators discovered that from July 24 to August 20 of last year, the biopharmaceutical plant had used expired disinfectants while developing a vaccine for brucellosis. (Related: Natural treatment for human brucellosis found in a dwarf shrub native to east Asia.)

This tremendous lapse of judgment allowed exhaust from the plant to carry unsterilized fermented broth, which later turned into aerosol containing pathogenic Brucella bacteria. The aerosol was then carried by the wind to nearby Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute, where almost 200 people subsequently contracted brucellosis. More than 20 faculty members at Lanzhou University who had visited the institute also tested positive for the disease, according to a report by the state-owned Xinhua News. As of last month, Lanzhou city’s health commission has confirmed 3,245 local cases, plus an additional 1,401 individuals who tested as preliminary positive for brucellosis.

Locals fret as brucellosis spread worsens

On September 8, Shaanxi TV, a state-run media reported on Weibo -- the Chinese version of Twitter -- that five infants at a local hospital in the neighboring province of Shaanxi tested positive for brucellosis. This announcement has sparked fear among residents, particularly those living close to the pharmaceutical plant. Speaking to The Epoch Times, a 30-year-old woman from Lanzhou who was diagnosed with brucellosis back in January described her experience with the disease.

The anonymous woman said she still suffers from various symptoms, such as waist pain, foot pain and leg pain. She also said that she sweats profusely, especially while climbing the stairs to her apartment. The woman shared that she has also been having problems conceiving and believes that the disease might have adversely affected her fertility. Her fears are not entirely groundless, as earlier studies have identified brucellosis as a reproductive disease in animals. Later studies have linked the disease to poor pregnancy outcomes in humans.

Historically, brucellosis is known for causing flu-like symptoms. These symptoms, which include fever, chills, loss of appetite, sweats, weakness, fatigue, headache and joint, muscle and back pain, may disappear for weeks or months and then return without warning. Meanwhile, individuals with chronic brucellosis tend to suffer from more severe symptoms, such as arthritis, endocarditis (heart inflammation) and spondylitis -- a form of arthritis that affects the spine and nearby joints.

In Inner Mongolia, an autonomous region 1,168 miles north of Gansu Province (where Lanzhou city is located), a man working on a farm told The Epoch Times that he’s had most, if not all, of these symptoms.

“I was diagnosed in September last year and have been undergoing treatment. My early symptoms were fatigue and sweating. Now I have joint pains and inflammation — mainly in the shoulder and elbow joints, and partly in the reproductive system.” He also said that six of his colleagues, as well as several thousand more in Inner Mongolia – a number that’s still unconfirmed as of writing – have also been diagnosed with brucellosis.

While the mortality rate for brucellosis is very low, Lanzhou residents are still worried, especially since no medical institution currently treats brucellosis in the city.

Learn more about this latest outbreak in China at

Sources include: 1 2

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