Monday, February 9, 2009

Blue ear disease reappears

News is trickling out that dead pigs in Shanxi Province were infected with "blue ear disease." On Feb. 9, a spokesperson for the provincial government reported that 1,000 pigs in Hongdong County, Wan'an Township, were confirmed to be infected with the "highly contagious blue ear disease" after lab tests. The county has 14,122 pigs and as of Feb. 6, 1056 had died: 871 feeder pigs, 157 pigs in grow-out, and 28 sows.

"Blue ear" disease, also known as porcine reproductive respiratory syndrome, causes sows to abort, still births, breathing difficulties in piglets, and difficulty nursing. China had a major outbreak in 2007 when it spread to 28 provinces and contributed to huge disruptions in pork supplies and record-high prices.

Another article claims the disease is caused by a bacterium called eperythrozoonosis that attaches itself to red blood cells and sometimes destroys them. This article claims it is common in pigs and blames the outbreak on the temperature changes in Hongdong County last month.

The Shanxi provincial party secretary and governor paid a lot of attention after learning of the outbreak, sending vaccine and veterinary personnel. They are conducting an investigation of pigs, meat, markets and forbidding dead pigs to be sold into the market. According to the Feb. 9 article, no market or restaurant has detected the disease in meat. However, a Feb. 10 article reports at least one dead pig was sold into the market. The pigs were buried or burned, but the article notes that 97 feeder pigs were fed to dogs.

The outbreak occurred in Wan'an Township near a small city called Linfen. It appears to be a fairly remote area about 100 miles south of Taiyuan, the provincial capital. However, it is right next to the main north-south highway that passes through Shanxi Province, so there is potential for disease to spread.

The new "blue ear" outbreak has been picked up by the overseas press, but curiously it doesn't seem to be getting publicized by China's agricultural informaton system. The articles cited above are on various news sites, but there is no news about the outbreak on the National Ministry of Agriculture news site, the animal husbandry bureau site, the Shanxi Provincial animal husbandry information web site, or the Hongdong County information site. Wouldn't you want your officials and farmers to be aware of the outbreak so they can be on the lookout for the disease to prevent it from spreading?

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