Anthrax hits China as pig disease festers

  • World
  • Sunday, 07 Aug 2005

By Elaine Lies

BEIJING (Reuters) - Anthrax has killed one person and infected 12 in northeast China, state media reported on Sunday, in the latest outbreak of animal-borne disease to hit the country in recent weeks. 

Anthrax, a disease caused by spore-forming bacteria normally contracted through contact with infected livestock, struck on July 29 outside Shenyang, in Liaoning province, Xinhua news agency said on its Web site, 

By Friday, no new cases had been reported in the town of Damintun for five consecutive days, and the lives and work of people in the area have returned to normal, Xinhua said. 

Anthrax thrives in grazing livestock such as cattle, goats and sheep, which can ingest anthrax spores from the soil. 

Infections were isolated to Damintun and two surrounding villages, Xinhua said. 

Eleven victims had been treated in hospital and were recovering, it said. 

Livestock in the affected areas had been inoculated with anti-anthrax vaccine or culled and safely buried, it said. Local officials had carefully checked all local meat sales points and banned people from bringing sick animals to markets. 

Echoing an ongoing outbreak of a pig disease that has killed at least 39 people in southwestern China, all the victims in Damintun were infected through slaughtering, handling or eating infected cows. 

One new death and two more infections of the swine-borne bacteria streptococcus suis were reported on Saturday in Sichuan province, Xinhua said. 

China has repeatedly insisted the disease is under control. 

The outbreak in the country's top pork-producing province was first reported in June but did not surface in the Chinese media until almost a month later. 

Nearly 650 hogs have died from the bacteria. Sichuan has been forced to suspend all exports of chilled and frozen pork from hard-hit areas to Hong Kong, and many Chinese cities have set up tight screens to block shipments of pigs or pork from the region. 

Chinese media have said there have been no cases of anthrax or the pig disease passing from human to human. 

Five people died in the United States in late 2001 after handling letters containing anthrax. The cases remain unsolved. 

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