The Health Commission of Lanzhou City, the capital of Gansu Province, confirmed that 3,245 people have contracted brucellosis, which is usually caused by contact with livestock carrying the Brucella bacteria.
The city’s health committee said that although there were no reports of fatalities, another 1401 people initially tested positive. In total, the authorities have tested 21,847 people out of the city’s 2.9 million population.
CDC believes that human-to-human transmission is extremely rare. Instead, most people get the infection by eating contaminated food or breathing bacteria-this seems to be the case in Lanzhou.
According to the city’s health committee, the epidemic originated from a leak at the Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Factory in Zhongmu, which occurred between late July and late August last year. When producing the Brucella vaccine for animals, the factory uses expired disinfectants and disinfectants-which means that not all bacteria have been eliminated in the exhaust gas.
The polluted exhaust gas formed an aerosol containing bacteria-and leaked into the air, which spread down to the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute with the wind.
Other infected patients include students, faculty and staff of Lanzhou University; according to Xinhua News Agency, the epidemic has even spread to Heilongjiang Province, the most northeastern province of the country, where the Veterinary Research Institute had 13 positive cases in August.
The factory also cancelled a total of seven veterinary drug product approval numbers.
In February of this year, the factory publicly apologized and stated that it had “severely punished” eight people who were determined to be responsible for the incident. It added that it will cooperate with local authorities in response and clean-up work and contribute to compensation programs for those affected.
The Lanzhou Health Commission also announced in its report on Tuesday that 11 public hospitals will provide free and regular checkups for infected patients. The report did not provide more detailed information about patient compensation, but will be released in batches starting in October.