Published Date: 2007-05-08 05:00:03
Subject: PRO/AH> Undiagnosed disease, porcine - China (03)
Archive Number: 20070508.1479
UNDIAGNOSED DISEASE, PORCINE - CHINA (03)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Mon 7 May 2007
Source: NY Times [edited]
A mysterious epidemic is killing pigs in south eastern China, but
international and Hong Kong authorities said today [7 May 2007] that the
Chinese government is providing little information about it.
The lack of even basic details is reviving long standing questions about
whether China is willing to share information about health and food safety
issues with potential global implications.
But officials in Hong Kong as well as at the World Health Organization
[WHO] and the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], both agencies of the
United Nations, said today [7 May 2007] that they had been told almost
nothing about the latest pig deaths and been given limited details about
wheat gluten contamination.
Because pigs can catch many of the same diseases as people, including bird
flu, the 2 UN agencies maintain global networks to track and investigate
unexplained patterns of pig deaths. Hong Kong television broadcasts and
newspapers were full of lurid accounts today [7 May 2007] of pigs
staggering around with blood pouring from their bodies in Gaoyao and
neighboring Yunfu, both in Guangdong Province. The Apple Daily newspaper
said that as many as 80 per cent of the pigs in the area had died, that
panicky farmers were selling ailing animals at deep discounts, and that pig
carcasses were floating in a river.
The reports in Hong Kong said the disease began killing pigs after the
Chinese New Year celebrations in February 2007 and that it is now
spreading. But state-controlled news outlets in China have reported almost
nothing about the pig deaths, and very little about the wheat gluten problem.
A man who answered the phone at the city government offices in Gaoyao, 140
miles north west of Hong Kong, confirmed late this afternoon [7 May 2007]
that pigs were dying there. He declined to give his name.
Dr Kwok Ka-ki, a surgeon who represents the medical profession in Hong
Kong's legislature, said that the Chinese government should share all
pig-death information with the Chinese public and with the city of Hong
Kong, which Britain returned to Chinese control in 1997. "They definitely
need to tell the public, but also people in the city, as to the extent of
the outbreak, how is the disease being controlled and the impact on public
health," he said. "It would help a lot to relieve the worry, and it would
help the rest of China to fight the disease."
There have been no reports of people becoming ill from the disease. But the
SARS experience has left Hong Kong with lasting jitters about mysterious
diseases in mainland China.
Medical experts said that the extent of the bleeding from the pigs,
including reports of bloody skin lesions, did not sound like the usual
symptoms of bird flu but added that the pig deaths nonetheless needed to be
Two spokeswomen for the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
said that the Guangdong authorities had told the department only that no
live pigs were being shipped from the Yunfu and Gaoyao area to Hong Kong.
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation
Department said that there were no signs of suspicious deaths among Hong
Kong's pigs, and referred questions about pigs in Guangdong to the food
[byline: Keith Bradsher]
ProMED-mail rapporteur Mary Marshall
[The symptoms, as colorfully described by the media, might be inaccurate.
More likely, this information might be related to the so-called "pig high
fever disease" [PHFD], described in China since summer 2006 and
subsequently and commendably notified to the Office International des
Epizooties as an emerging, multifactorial condition. The mentioned disease
agents were classical swine fever [CSF], porcine reproductive and
respiratory syndrome [PRRS], and porcine circovirus [PCV-2]. In addition,
some samples were positive for Aujeszky's disease, _Streptococcus suis_,
pasteurellosis, and porcine contagious pleuropneumonia infection.
The current situation is in need of official clarification, since
hemorrhages, as described, might be indicative of other infectious pig
diseases (such as swine erysipelas). First hand information would be
helpful in preventing a public scare and possible disinformation. Definite
exclusion of H5N1 involvement is also anticipated. - Mod.AS]