The whole world is already pretty skeptical of China after the novel coronavirus has distorted global operations all across the world posing a threat to the healthcare sector as well as the economy. The coronavirus originated in Wuhan, a city in China, has already infected 30.9 million people with 960,000 reported deaths.
Now, as the Covid-19 (the disease caused by coronavirus) pandemic continues to de-shape the world economy, the health commission of Lanzhou City in China made a shocking declaration. It declared that there was a leak in a biopharmaceutical company last year which has now turned into a disastrous outbreak of Brucellosis disease. The outbreak of the disease, also known as the Malta fever, has already infected over 3,000 people in China. Luckily, no fatalities have been reported yet.
What is brucellosis?
Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that mainly infects swine, goats, sheep, dogs, and cattle. It can also infect humans if they come in direct contact with any infected animals. It can also transfer to humans when they consume any contaminated animal product or inhale airborne agents. World Health Organisation (WHO) says that most of the cases are caused by ingesting unpasteurized milk or cheese from infected sheep or goats.
What are the symptoms?
The common symptoms of Brucellosis include:
- Muscle pain
- Abdominal pain
- Joint or Back pain
- Weight and appetite loss
Some symptoms may stay for a while some may never go away. Such perpetual symptoms are:
- Swelling of testicles and scrotum area
- Neurological symptoms
- Chronic fatigue
- Recurrent fevers
- Swelling of the heart
- Chronic fatigue
- Swelling of the liver or spleen
How do people get Brucellosis disease?
The disease is said to have little chance of human to human transmission. It is more or less transmitted by consumption or inhalation of any infectious component. The following are the most common ways through which the disease is spread:
- Eating or drinking unpasteurized/raw dairy products
- Through Air
- Direct contact with infected animals
- The bacteria can also enter the body through open wounds or mucous membranes
- Breastfeeding mothers who are infected with the bacteria may transmit the infection to their infants
- Tissue transplantation or blood transfusions
- Sexual transmission (Rarely)
As per the experts, the disease is more common in some parts of the world; especially, where people are more likely to consume unpasteurized goat cheese.
What are the complications of Brucellosis disease and how can it be treated?
Brucellosis disease can affect almost all parts of one’s body- liver, heart, central nervous system as well as the reproductive system. According to health experts, the most serious complication is inflammation of testicles- leading to infertility in men.
Other noted side effects are- Endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining), Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes around your brain), and Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
The treatment of this disease is mainly dependant on antibiotics such as Rifampin and doxycycline. Recovery from the disease is related to the severity of the infection as well as the timing of the treatment; it may take a few weeks to several months.
The infection can, however, be avoided by eluding the raw or unpasteurized dairy products. Taking safety precautions like wearing gloves, aprons, or gowns while dealing with animals or working in labs is quintessential and can ensure minimal risk of getting exposed to Brucellosis. Cooking meat properly and vaccinating domestic animals are two other preventive measures one can undertake.
When did the current outbreak begin?
A report on “Brucells antibody-positive incident”, which took place at the Lanzhou Veterinary Research Institute on November 28, 2019, was mentioned on the website of the Health Commission of Lanzhou City. The factory used outdated and expired disinfectants that lead to incomplete sterilization of waste gas while producing a veterinary vaccine for Brucellosis between July 24 and August 20, 2019. This waste gas transmitted the disease-causing virus. It subsequently formed aerosols due to which people were exposed.
According to the Lanzhou Health Commission, following the outbreak, the municipal and provincial authorities carried an investigation into the factory gas leak. After the investigation, the officials revoked the licenses for vaccine production held by the plant. They also withdrew product approval for the factory’s two Brucellosis vaccines by January and seven veterinary drug product approval numbers were also canceled.
The factory issued a public apology in February. It said that it had taken severe action against the eight people determined to be responsible for the leak.
What are the other disease outbreaks since COVID-19?
China has been home to several other outbreaks apart from the globally recognized coronavirus pandemic. The following are the critical ones:
- Hantavirus: According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), its first cases date back to early 1993s. In March 2020 when China’s English Daily Global Times discussed the first death of a person due to this virus. That person was from Yunnan Province and was tested positive for the virus. It is reportedly transmitted to humans from infected rodents.
- African Swine Fever (AFS): At a critical time when the coronavirus pandemic was on its epitome in the world and several economies were struggling to safeguard its people, a new disease called African Swine Fever was flowing in the eastern parts of India. During the COVID-19 lockdown, the ASF outbreak took lived of thousands of pigs in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. ASF is a highly viral disease that results in hemorrhagic fever. It majorly affects wild and domestic pigs. The disease is extremely deadly with a fatality rate of nearly 100%. It can be transmitted to a person when he comes in direct contact with an infected or wild pig; it does not matter if it is alive or dead. The disease can also be transferred via biological vectors such as ticks or by ingestion of contaminated products such as feed or garbage or food waste.