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This bacterial disease infected thousands of people in China in late 2019

A factory leak led to widespread bacterial infections in northwest China

In this aerial photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, flooding is seen in Bikou township of Longnan city in northwestern China’s Gansu Province, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. Authorities deployed helicopters in western China to rescue people stranded by flooding as heavy rain swelled rivers to dangerous levels, state media reported. (Du Zheyu/Xinhua via AP)
In this aerial photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, flooding is seen in Bikou township of Longnan city in northwestern China’s Gansu Province, on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020.
Du Zheyu, Xinhua via Associated Press

Chinese authorities said Tuesday that thousands of people in northwest China tested positive for a bacterial infection after an outbreak in 2019.

The outbreak stemmed from a factory leak at a biopharmaceutical company. The South China Morning Post reports the exhaust fumes from the plant were contaminated.

  • According to the health commission of Lanzhou, the capital city of Gansu province, 3,245 people tested positive for the disease brucellosis.
  • The commission said 1,401 people tested preliminarily positive.
  • No fatalities have been reported.

What is brucellosis?

Brucellosis “is often caused by contact with livestock carrying the bacteria brucella,” according to CNN.

The disease — called Malta fever or Mediterranean fever — can cause headaches, fever, fatigue and nerve pains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some symptoms of the fever never go away.

Human-to-human transmission can happen. Most infections happen when people eat contaminated food or breathing in the bacteria.