Two Concerning Meat-Related Diseases Booming in China

January 21, 2020 Updated: January 26, 2020


Do you remember SARS? Severe acute respiratory syndrome was so contagious that a SARS-afflicted man on an Air China flight in 2003 infected 20 passengers sitting at a distance away from him and also two crew members.

The simple act of flushing the toilet spread the deadly lung disease, and health care workers needed to wear hazmat suits to treat patients. Eight hundred people died, including Pekka Aro, a senior official with the United Nations.

Where did the disease come from? This is what the Journal of Virology wrote:

“Exotic animals from a Guangdong marketplace are likely to have been the immediate origin of the SARS that infected humans in the winters of both 2002-2003 and 2003-2004. Marketplace Himalayan palm civets and raccoon dogs harbored viruses highly similar to SARS…the sporadic infections observed in 2003-2004 were associated with restaurants in which palm civet meat was prepared and consumed.”

China’s response to SARS was to drown, incinerate, and electrocute 10,000 civets. The slaughter was depicted in heartbreaking photos.

Now, a SARS-like disease is back in China.

“Because some of the patients worked at a seafood market where birds, snakes, and organs of rabbits and other game were also reportedly sold,” there is concern that the pathogen comes from animals, as was the case with SARS, Bloomberg reported this month.

And there’s another meat-based disease that has the potential to become a pandemic.

African swine fever (ASF), caused by the African swine fever virus, has killed one-fourth of the world’s pigs, including half of all China’s factory farm pigs. In addition to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea, and the Philippines, ASF has spread to Europe, dashing European Union pig farmers’ hopes of exporting to China and other devastated regions.

Even though the disease doesn’t kill people, it lives in the meat.

“The agriculture ministry has even contacted the German army and nurses to alert them about the risks of crossing into Germany from Eastern Europe with bacon sandwiches,” POLITICO Pro Agriculture reported.

Germany’s local governments are building fences along the Polish border to try to stop the disease, which wild boar may be spreading.

Like EU pig farmers, U.S. pig farmers have hoped to export to China. But their hopes are probably dimming as the likelihood of ASF spreading to the United States grows.

“It’s not a question of whether ASF reaches American shores, but when,” Thomas Parsons, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and Scott Michael Moore, the university’s China program director, wrote in the Hill.

“Should the virus enter the U.S., your future as a pork producer would radically change,” Pork Business says.

While The New York Times blamed China’s “small farms, often packed together in crowded agricultural areas,” for the ASF pandemic, factory farms in the United States have similar conditions.

As another respiratory epidemic threatens, it’s clear the SARS outbreak taught China’s live animal market purveyors nothing. And the same may be said about U.S. pork farmers.

In 2014, the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus killed one-tenth of all U.S. pigs in 2014. The virus was so devastating, a Kentucky farm fed dead pigs to other pigs in an attempt to induce “immunity” in survivors. Although PEDv didn’t harm humans, photos of dump trucks depositing the dead pigs in landfills were largely suppressed—to keep people eating pork.

When it comes to meat-originated diseases, producers have the ability to cause worldwide epidemics.

Martha Rosenberg is author of the award-cited food exposé “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency.” A nationally known muckraker, she has lectured at the university and medical school level and appeared on radio and television.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.