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Pig Vaccine in Production, 31 People Dead

Experts sent by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to the area of southwest China's Sichuan Province hit by a lethal pig-borne disease said yesterday that a vaccine to help halt its spread amongst pig stocks is now in production.


Reports came the same day the Ministry of Health confirmed that the human death toll from the outbreak had risen to 31 by noon on Thursday, and those reported to be infected now number152. It said all those who have been diagnosed with the illness have handled sick pigs.


According to a daily report from the Ministry of Health, the increase in deaths does not mean the epidemic is worsening. Increased deaths were of patients who had been hospitalized for several days, not newly diagnosed cases.


Among the 27 new patients, only six had fallen ill yesterday, with the rest having had symptoms for several days.


Yang Weizhong, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Disease Control and Emergency Response Office, said the epidemic in Ziyang was in decline but he was not sure when it would be over.


While saying antibiotics were effective against the infection, Yang had reservations over the aftereffects of the large doses involved, currently the only treatment option.


The MOA team said pig vaccines will soon be batch-produced in the southern province of Guangdong and are expected to reach Sichuan in about one week after being tested for safety.


The biomedical company Yongshun will be the first to mass-produce the vaccines, and has already produced a small number of vaccines after receiving emergency training from MOA experts.


Ning Yubao, a member of the expert team and a China Veterinarian Medicine Monitoring Institute researcher, said the vaccine should help control the outbreak.


The disease has been identified as being caused by the bacteria Streptococcus suis, which is endemic to many domestic pig populations and rarely affects humans. It is not known why the current outbreak has taken place, or why the strain is so deadly.


Minster of Health Gao Qiang arrived in Sichuan yesterday to inspect the work being done to control the outbreak.


(Xinhua News Agency July 29, 2005)

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