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China Confident of Controlling Pig-borne Disease

More cases of the pig-borne streptococcus suis infection were reported over the weekend, but officials continue to insist they are capable of controlling the outbreak.

Over the weekend, more cases of human infections were identified in Hong Kong, Guangdong, and two more cities in Sichuan, but the Ministry of Health (MOH) has not disclosed exactly which two cities in Sichuan. Places known to harbor the disease include Ziyang, Neijiang and Chengdu.

By noon on Saturday, the death toll had reached 34, according to the MOH.

By noon yesterday, 181 human cases had been reported in nine regions of Sichuan, 18 more than last Friday.

The MOH said that prompt reporting by doctors has meant that fewer people are dying from the disease.

On Sunday, no deaths were reported in Sichuan, and 17 patients were released from hospital.

A human case of the infection was identified in Chao'an County in Guangdong Province on July 27. The patient was released from hospital over the weekend, China News Service reported.

In Hong Kong, the health authority also reported one human case, which takes the total number of cases in the region to 11 since May 2004.

The patient, an 84-year-old man, was hospitalized on June 16. He is in a stable condition.

A large quantity of vaccine, enough to inoculate 350,000 pigs, was sent to Chengdu yesterday afternoon from south China's Guangdong Province.

The producer of the vaccine, the Guangdong Yongshun Biology Pharmaceutical Factory, said it will produce enough vaccine for 10 million pigs.

Sichuan's livestock trade has been hit hard by the outbreak.

In Ziyang, where human infections were first reported, people have turned away from pork, choosing poultry and beef instead.

"I know the pork in markets now is safe, but I'm just following others," one unidentified shopper said yesterday.

"It's hard to estimate the economic losses," An Weining, director of the local animal husbandry department, said.

Authorities are also exploring ways to curb the deep-rooted practice small-scale farmers have of butchering and eating animals which are the victims of disease.

Experts say butchering and eating infected pork is the only way for humans to catch the disease.

"We might educate youngsters at school and get them to pass on the information to their families," the Party Secretary of Ziyang, Zhong Mian, said last week.

According to An, his department will make streptococcus inoculations mandatory in addition to the two existing compulsory vaccinations against pig-borne bacteria and foot-and-mouth disease.

According to officials, no compensation will be given to farmers who now face difficulties selling their animals.

The government cannot afford the expense, Zhong said, adding that normally 50,000 of around 5 million pigs raised in Ziyang die from disease every year.

"If the government compensates farmers 1,000 yuan (US$120) for each dead animal, it will be a huge expenditure every year," Zhong said.

In Sichuan, which is known for animal husbandry, most farmers earn at least part of their income from raising pigs.

For Wang Xingcheng, a farmer infected with the disease, two-thirds of his family's income come from raising pigs, his daughter said.

Low-income families, who pay a lot for piglets, animal inoculations and feed, will suffer a huge loss if they are not compensated for being unable to sell or eat their sick animals.

According to An, farmers in Ziyang sell around three-fifths of their home-raised pigs for private slaughter or to small or medium-sized food companies, who then trade the meat to markets. "One-fifth are killed and consumed by farmers themselves," An said, adding that another portion is sold to large companies engaged in meat export.

(China Daily August 1, 2005)

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