Diseased Pigs Thrown into Rivers in Sichuan

August 1, 2005 Updated: August 21, 2015

The pig pathogen epidemic continues to spread in Sichuan province. Many farmers have thrown sick pigs into the rivers to kill them. The local government had to appoint personnel to pull the dead pig bodies from the rivers. People do not dare to eat the fish from the rivers because they fear the pigs have polluted the rivers. The Sichuan Health Department reported that two additional infected people were confirmed as of August 4, 2005, at 12 p.m. The current reported number of infected cases is 214, and 39 people have died. The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the disease epidemic may have other origins. Many overseas medical experts believe that a crisis may occur at any time.

Measures to Control the Disease Have Not Been Implemented

The authorities in Sichuan are taking measures to control the spread of the pig disease epidemic that is causing a 20 percent death rate there. Those measures include: Proper procedures for handling the sick pigs; improving the management and examination processes of pork imports and exports; penalties applied to officials who deceive or delay the report of the epidemic disease. However, these measures haven’t been completely implemented.

Some residents in Chengdu city told The Epoch Times that they have not eaten any pork since the eruption of the disease, and now do not even dare to eat fish. The pathogen infected at least 11 people who have been hospitalized near Chengdu. Some farmers just simply threw the sick pigs into the nearby rivers to kill them. They didn’t burn or bury the pigs according to regulations. On Chengdu TV’s Evening News on August 3, the station reported epidemic prevention personnel were picking up pigs floating down the river nearby Chengdu, and then loading the pigs into plastic bags for disposal.

On August 4, 2005, Yangcheng Evening News reported that a newspaper reporter had secretly investigated the case. Dead pigs apparently had been imported to Guangzhou city and were found at a local market trading in animals. It was possible to buy one of these for 200 yuan (US$24). Such pigs identified by market security officials were simply placed at the main entrance of the market. They were not taken away by a sanitary disposal vehicle until the next day. What the reporter found particularly surprising was the sanitary disposal vehicle ending its run at a meat processing shop that day.

Experts Doubt Official Cause of Death

The Chinese official media reports that doctors in China think the outbreak is associated with the type 2 Streptococcus suis in pigs. It has a high death rate after infection, causing internal organ failure. External experts have raised the doubts about the reported cause. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement on August 3, 2005, saying that further laboratory testing is needed. Experts believe that the symptoms of a high fever and bleeding under the skin are similar to symptoms associated with other diseases, such as H5N1 bird flu virus or Ebola. Because China has refused third party participation in the investigation, the real cause of the disease is still unknown.

Viral evolution specialist Dr. Henry Niman, founder and president of Recombinomics, Inc., said that some of the symptoms of the Sichuan pathogen are very similar to those of the influenza outbreak that occurred between 1918 and 1919, killing 50 million people worldwide.

There was an eruption of the bird flu in Qinghai province adjacent to Sichuan not long ago. Dr. Guan Yi of Hong Kong University found that it was very possible for the fatal bird flu virus H5N1 to infect human beings. These results were published in Nature on May 25, 2005. The Chinese Communist Party denied his findings, accused him of disclosing national secrets, and stopped H5N1 research at his mainland China laboratory.

As for some online reports regarding the Ebola virus being detected in the blood of some patients, this has not been confirmed by Chinese authorities. Dr. Niman said that according to online reports, the Ebola virus had been detected previously in Shenzhen city and other regions, and that the genes of the Ebola can recombine with the genes in the bird flu virus. “In order to know the real situation, we must have a blood sample from the patient,” he said.

Although the situation in Sichuan is still unclear those outside China, citizens remain cautious. One Beijing local said he would eat pork as little as possible [until the situation is resolved]. A woman from an auto manufacturing business in Ziyang city urged this reporter not to visit Ziyang for the time being because it an epicenter for the Sichuan pig disease epidemic.