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Brucellosis Outbreak In China: Bacterial Infection That Can Leave Men Infertile And Cause Fever

On 15 September, Tuesday, the Chinese authorities have confirmed the outbreak of a bacterial disease, caused by a leak at a biopharmaceutical company in 2019 [1]. The news comes after thousands of people in northwest China were tested positive for a bacterial disease or an infection called brucellosis.

As per the reports from the Health Commission of Lanzhou, the disease is caused by contact with livestock carrying the bacteria Brucella. According to CNN, the outbreak stemmed from a leak at the Zhongmu Lanzhou biological pharmaceutical factory last year between late July and August.

The factory, which manufactures Brucella vaccines for animal use, used expired disinfectants and sanitisers, causing the bacteria to survive in the waste gas and cause a nation-wide infection outbreak [2]. No deaths have been reported so far.

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Brucellosis, also known as Malta fever or Mediterranean fever, can cause headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue. Read on to learn more about the infectious disease that has affected over 3500 people.

What Is Brucellosis?

A bacterial infection, brucellosis spreads from animals to human beings [3]. Caused by a group of bacteria from the genus Brucella, the infection is often spread when people eat contaminated food, raw meat or unpasteurised milk. Apart from food, it can also spread through the air or contact with an open wound.

Brucellosis affects hundreds of thousands of people and animals worldwide. The CDC points out that avoiding raw dairy products and taking necessary precautions when working with animals or in a lab setting can help prevent the onset of the infectious disease [4].

Symptoms Of Brucellosis

Signs that you have contracted the bacterial infection may show up anytime from a few days to a few months after you have been infected. The symptoms of brucellosis are as follows [5]:

● Loss of appetite
● Fever
● Chills
● Joint, muscle and back pain
● Sweating
● Lethargy
● Weight loss
● Weakness
● Fatigue
● Headache

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Causes Of Brucellosis

The bacterial infection mainly affects wild and domestic animals including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and feral hogs, dogs (hunting), deer, elk, bison, caribou, moose and camels [6]. Humans can then contract the disease from infected animals, where the bacteria can be transmitted through ingestion (eating), inhalation (breathing), or contact with an open wound.

The common causes of brucellosis are as follows [7]:

● Eating raw dairy products
● Inhaling contaminated air
● Coming in contact with blood and body fluids of infected animals

Note: Brucellosis does not spread from person to person normally. But in sporadic cases, it can be spread through breastfeeding or sexual contact.

Risk Factors For Brucellosis

The following occupations and places are considered as risk factors [8]:

● The infection is commonly reported in places such as Eastern Europe, Mexico, South and Central America, Asia, Africa, The Caribbean and The Middle East.
● People who work with animals or who come into contact with infected blood, such as veterinarians, dairy farmers, slaughterhouse workers, and microbiologists are at higher risk of brucellosis [9].

Complications Of Brucellosis

The bacterial infection, once established in your body, can affect almost your entire body, including your reproductive system, liver, heart and central nervous system. Brucellosis can cause complications in just one organ or throughout your body, such as,

● arthritis [10],
● inflammation and infection of the testicles (epi-didymo orchitis),
● infection of the heart's inner lining (endocarditis) [11],
● central nervous system infections, and
● inflammation and infection of the spleen and liver.

Diagnosis Of Brucellosis

The bacterial infection is generally diagnosed by testing blood or bone marrow, or by testing blood for antibodies to the bacteria [12].

To help detect complications of brucellosis, the following tests may be required:

● Computerised tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
● X-ray
● Cerebrospinal fluid culture
● Echocardiography

Treatment For Brucellosis

The treatment method for the bacterial infection aims at relieving the symptoms. It is usually treated with antibiotics, which one may be required to take for at least six weeks. The disease may also return and become chronic.

Can Brucellosis Be Prevented?

Brucellosis is a preventable bacterial infection. To prevent the onset of the infection, the following measures can help:

• Take safety precautions in high-risk workplaces such as slaughterhouses, farms etc.
• Wear gloves when handling animals or animal tissues.
• Cover any open wounds on your skin when coming in contact with animal blood.
• Avoid consuming raw meat or unpasteurised milk, cheese, and ice cream.
• Cook meat thoroughly.
• Vaccinate domestic animals.

Story first published: Friday, September 18, 2020, 17:45 [IST]
Read more about: bacteria infection infertile