New bacterial disease infects thousands in China

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NEW DELHI: As many as 3,245 people in north-east China’s Gansu province have tested positive for a bacterial disease called brucellosis, also known as Malta fever or Mediterranean fever, in an outbreak caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company in July-August last year. In the capital city of Lanzhou, 21,847 people have been tested out of 2.9 million population and no fatalities have been reported so far.
Here is all you need to know:
* Brucellosis can cause symptoms including headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue. While these may subside, some symptoms can become chronic or never go away, like arthritis or swelling in certain organs, recurrent fevers, inflammation of the heart (endocarditis) and spondylitis.
* Brucellosis can be hard to identify, especially in the early stages, when it often resembles other conditions, such as the flu. If a person experiences persistent and rapidly rising fever, muscle pains and unusual weakness, one should consult the doctor.
* People who work with animals or who come into contact with infected blood are at higher risk of brucellosis such as the veterinarians, dairy farmers, ranchers, slaughterhouse workers among others.
* Preventions against Brucellosis includes avoid unpasteurized dairy foods, cooking meat thoroughly, wearing gloves, taking safety precautions in high-risk workplaces and vaccinating domestic animals.
* Human-to-human transmission is extremely rare, according to the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, most people are infected by eating contaminated food or breathing in the bacteria — which seems to be the case in Lanzhou.
* The Zhongmu Lanzhou biological pharmaceutical factory, while producing Brucella vaccines for animal use, used expired disinfectants & sanitizers, as a result, failed to eradicate all the bacteria in the waste gas which in turn contaminated the city’s air.
* Brucellosis had been much more common in China in the 1980s, though it has since declined with the emergence of vaccines and better disease prevention and control.
* There have been a smattering of brucellosis outbreaks around the world in the past few decades; an outbreak in Bosnia infected about 1,000 people in 2008, prompting the culling of sheep and other infected livestock.
* In the US, brucellosis has cost the federal government and livestock industry billions of dollars. About 60% of female bison at Yellowstone National Park carry the bacteria, according to national park authorities.

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