In November 2019, just before Covid-19 was detected in Wuhan, a different outbreak was unfolding in another part of China. In Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province in the country’s northwest, a leak at a vaccine production company resulted in over 10,000 people becoming infected by brucellosis, a bacterial disease that causes symptoms such as headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue. If untreated, the disease can turn chronic and manifest as arthritis, recurrent fevers and swelling of the heart, liver, spleen or reproductive organs.
The vaccine factory was quickly shut down, and its production licenses were revoked. It was finally dismantled in October 2020. That month, China’s top legislative body passed a law for biosecurity risk prevention and response.