Gao is among thousands of residents around a biopharmaceutical plant in Lanzhou who were exposed to the highly contagious, hard-to-treat disease as a result of contaminated factory exhaust last summer. Most of the patients tested positive for brucellosis antibodies, but few were formally diagnosed.
Patients said doctors seemed inexplicably reluctant to issue brucellosis diagnoses or to quickly order aggressive treatments. Although local officials maintained that the disease would dissipate over time, many residents are still suffering damage to their health, undermining their quality of life.
Gao’s nightmare began at the Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Plant, a unit of state-owned China Animal Husbandry Industry, located on the northeastern edge of Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. Local health authorities said on Dec. 26 last year that the factory used expired sanitizers while producing Brucella vaccines between July 24 and Aug. 20. This resulted in the bacteria entering the factory’s exhaust and infecting people nearby, officials said.
Caixin learned that by the end of February this year, about 20,000 people in Lanzhou received tests for antibodies for the Brucella bacterium. More than 3,000 came back positive
Local authorities said the leak at the biopharmaceutical plant contained low levels of bacteria that wouldn’t harm people’s health and would be cleared from the human body within six months. Those who tested positive but showed no symptoms didn’t need medical treatment, officials said.
However, Caixin interviews with 40 Yanchangbao residents who tested positive for the disease found that nearly half of them were still suffering symptoms a year after the leak. Only two of those interviewed were officially diagnosed with brucellosis. Those without a confirmed diagnosis said they were puzzled about treatment options and the severity of their infections.
Edit – also, here’s the wikipedia article for this bacterial infection, brucellosis