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China: Factory leak spreads animal disease

Thousands of people in northwest China have been diagnosed with a highly infectious bacterial disease after an outbreak caused by a leak at a pharmaceutical company. Authorities in the city of Lanzhou confirmed that 3,245 people had tested positive for brucellosis – a zoonotic disease usually caused by contact with farm animals such as cows, goats and pigs. The contagious illness can cause symptoms including loss of appetite, headaches, muscle pain, fever and tiredness. A minority of those affected may develop endocarditis, a potentially fatal heart condition.

The National Health Commission of Lanzhou, in Gansu province, said they had tested 21,847 people so far and had found no deaths from the illness. The commission said the outbreak had been caused by “contaminated exhaust” from a factory in Lanzhou producing vaccines for animals. From late July to late August in 2019, waste gas containing the brucella bacteria seeped out into the air. The Zhongmu Lanzhou factory was found to have used expired disinfectants, so not all of the bacteria were eradicated in the waste gas.

The city’s health authority anticipates there will be more positive cases in the coming days. Another 1,401 people in Lanzhou have tested as “preliminarily” positive for brucellosis, according to CNN. In December last year the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported that 181 people working at a veterinary research facility near the factory had contacted the disease – but the full scale of the outbreak was not reported until now.

Global union confederation ITUC has for several years been pressing for a global International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on biological hazards at work, to cover diseases like brucellosis, MRSA, SARS, MERS, Bird Flu and now COVID-19. Read more: CNN News. The Independent. Source: Risks 966

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