Dec. 4 (UPI) -- More than 10,000 people in China are reportedly infected with a highly contagious disease that can lead to chronic health issues, after a vaccine factory used expired sanitizer, and bacteria spread through the plant.
The government of Lanzhou, Gansu Province, said Thursday at a press briefing there are 10,528 cases of brucellosis after a mass test of 68,571 people through Nov. 30, Chinese news service Caixin reported.
The number indicates infections have grown fifty-fold in northwest China since December 2019. Chinese state media has previously said 200 people last year tested positive for antibodies, the same month the first known outbreak of the novel coronavirus was reported in Wuhan.
According to Chinese authorities, the vaccine factory in Gansu used expired sanitizer, allowing bacteria to multiply at the facility, mostly between July and August 2019. Exhaust from the factory was not properly sterilized before being sent into the atmosphere. About 3,000 local residents were initially infected, according to Caixin.
The company concealed the accident until cases began to grow and patients were unable to receive proper treatment. Victims have said government compensation for the accident is not enough. On Wednesday the vaccine firm agreed to distribute $3.7 million in indemnity to 3,244 people, or about $1,100 per head, according to the report.
Brucellosis can spread from farm animals to humans, and human-to-human spread can occur through blood transfusion, bone marrow transplant and sexual intercourse. Symptoms include profuse sweating, and joint and muscle pain. The pathogen can also enter the respiratory tract and penetrate damaged skin. It is also the most common laboratory-acquired infection caused by bacteria, according to Deutsche Welle.
In November brucellosis became the most popular topic of discussion on Chinese social media platforms, including Sina Weibo.
Chinese state tabloid Global Times reported last month eight people have been "held accountable" for the outbreak.