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China's pig disease worries the world

by 5m Editor
20 September 2007, at 10:27am

CHINA - At first, it was just some of the piglets. The mother gave birth to 13, all of them stillborn. Within a few weeks, however, she and other adult pigs in neighboring stalls became feverish and died. By the end of the summer, all but a handful of the village's 300 pigs had succumbed to the mysterious disease.

One of Lo Jinyuan's pigs gave birth to 13 piglets, all of them stillborn, and later became feverish and died. "Before we knew something was wrong, they were all dead," Lo said.

"It was quick, very quick. Before we knew something was wrong, they were all dead," said Lo Jinyuan, a 55-year-old pig farmer in the village of Shandi.

Moving rapidly from one farm to the next, the virus has been devastating pig communities throughout China for more than a year, wiping out entire herds, driving pork prices up nearly 87 percent in a year and helping push the country's inflation rate to its highest levels since 1996.

The Chinese government has admitted that the swine deaths amount to an epidemic but contends that the situation is under control.

China says it is moving swiftly to stop the infections by quarantining and slaughtering the affected pigs. It says its researchers have developed an effective vaccine in record time for the likely cause — blue ear pig disease, a reproductive and respiratory illness that is highly fatal in pigs but that so far does not seem to pose danger to humans. And it maintains that it has been "open and transparent" all along.

Some experts, both inside and outside China, are skeptical, citing the government's handling of SARS in 2002 and 2003 and the avian-flu outbreak in 2004. While China's central government has made numerous improvements since then in how it deals with infectious-disease control and informs the public, it has once again been slow to share scientific data and tissue samples with other countries.

As a result, there is worry that while China is lagging, the virus is quickly turning into a global problem. China does not export pork to the United States, but the virus has already been found in pigs in China's southern neighbors, Vietnam and Myanmar.

"We are concerned that with international traffic this particular virus could enter other continents — Europe or Africa or the Americas," said Juan Lubroth, head of infectious diseases for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), based in Rome.

Source: TheSeattleTimes


Further Reading

- Find out more information on PRRS/Blue Ear by clicking here.
- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

5m Editor