Feeds

China's pig disease baffles health experts

Human-to-human transmission mooted

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A pig-borne disease that has killed 36 people and infected 198 in China may be spreading from human to human, according to some scientists, while others suggest an entirely different disease is to blame.

The Chinese government, which has just delivered the first shipment of pig-vaccines to the affected area, says no evidence of human-to-human transmission has been found, and the spread of the disease is now under control.

But experts counter the denial, pointing out that transmission from pig to human is actually quite difficult, and that the high numbers of infected people suggest the disease is spreading from person to person.

"The organism is carried on the pig’s tonsils and is spread pig-to-pig through nose rubbing or coughing. But it’s only found in small concentration on the pigs’ tonsils, so it’s difficult for a human to catch it that way," Jill Thompson from the UK’s Veterinary Investigation Centre in Edinburgh told New Scientist.

Authorities in China became aware of the disease in late June, but only made an official announcement a month later on 25 July. Comparisons are already being made with the way authorities handled the SARS and Bird Flu outbreaks.

According to New Scientist, the World Health Organisation professes to be baffled by the outbreak, because the bacteria concerned - Streptococcus suis type II - has never affected so many people at once. It also appears to be a particularly virulent strain - mortality rates are usually below 10 per cent - and those infected are exhibiting unusual symptoms.

Samson Wong, a Hong Kong University microbiologist, says that the presentation is so atypical, it might even be another disease altogether. He notes that many patients were bleeding under the skin, a rare symptom of the infection, and that few cases of deafness, a more common symptom, have been reported. Other scientists suggest a virus might be responsible for the outbreak.

Jill Thompson goes on: "It is so rare for humans to become infected; most farm workers develop some immunity from the endemic disease. What might have happened is that the bacteria have acquired virulence factors from another organism - a bacterium or virus that might be harmless - and the combined virulence factors have turned it into a superbug, which could be transmitted human-to-human through coughing." ®

Related stories

Scientists closer to Ebola and Marburg vaccines
Bird flu: we're all going to die
Gates pledges extra $250m for world health

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.