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Human pig disease outbreak in China appears to have peaked, UN health agnecy

Human pig disease outbreak in China appears to have peaked, UN health agnecy

A swine-borne disease that has infected 215 people in China, killing 39, seems to have peaked, but the movement of live pigs and trade of meat from the infected area must be carefully monitored to stop the outbreak from spreading nationally or internationally, according to the latest update issued by the United Nations health agency.

A group of international specialists convened by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has concluded, based on information provided by the Chinese Health Ministry, that the outbreak in humans in Sichuan province is compatible with Streptococcus suis.

“The data provided by China depict an outbreak that peaked from the second through the fourth week of July, and dwindled rapidly thereafter,” WHO said. “Authorities say several human cases were discovered retrospectively, once the epidemiological investigation was under way.”

The agency noted that authorities reported that there was so far no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and no health-care workers tending to the patients had been infected but further study was still needed to determine why this outbreak was so large with so many fatalities compared to previous outbreaks in recent years.

“Regarding a possible national and international spread of the outbreak, the specialists concurred with the Chinese authorities that the movements of live pigs, and the trade of pig carcasses and meat within and from the outbreak area, had to be carefully regulated and monitored,” WHO said. “China says it has put strict measures in place to ensure this.”

The specialists reiterated that although consumption of raw or undercooked pork may lead to disease, eating properly cooked pork is unlikely to represent an increased risk, even if the strain of Streptococcus suis involved is more virulent.

But the outbreak once again raises the wider global issue of the links between, on the one hand, food safety, animal husbandry and slaughtering practices, especially in poor, backyard farms and rural areas, and on the other hand, an ever-growing range of zoonotic diseases.

Symptoms include high fever, malaise, nausea, and vomiting, followed by meningitis, subcutaneous haemorrhage, toxic shock, and coma in severe cases. The incubation period is short and disease progression is rapid.