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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Sichuan Disease

This The Straits Times demonstrates how frustrating the news coming out of China has been:
China vowed yesterday to punish officials who falsify or delay reports on a deadly swine flu that has infected at least 198 people and killed 36, while Hong Kong's government adopted tough measures to guard against the disease.

Seventeen new infections of streptococcus suis bacteria and two new deaths were reported in China's south-western province of Sichuan, state television said yesterday.

It said the disease had struck 176 villages.

Beijing, which came under fire for covering up the Sars outbreak two years ago, insisted the pig-borne disease was under control.
No human to human transmission. Only streptococcus. Yet other reports say that the bacteria has been isolated only from a minority of cases. It's under control, but seventeen new cases were reported yesterday (the article was dated August 2, but the case count of 198 is already outdated - supposedly it's up to 205). You can only get it from pigs, but Hong Kong says they have had cases in which people had no contact with pigs. Full disclosure is mandated and there is no coverup, but reporters have been banned from the area.

See this Recombinomics report of what are now 4 possible suspected human cases of bird flu in Kazakhstan. All four, however, would have gotten infected from contact with infected birds. As Recombinomics notes, this raises further questions about China's disclosure policies:
H5N1 has been confirmed in Kazakhstan as well as several locations in southern Siberia in Russian and the sequence suggest it is from the Qinghai Lake area. All H5N1 linked to the migratory bird outbreaks in Qinghai and Xinjiang China, Novosibirsk and Altai regions in Russia, and the Pavlodar region in Kazakhstan have involved geese.

Transmission to these people via goose meat strongly suggests that the are many cases in China which have gone unreported and supports the boxun reports of large numbers of human cases in Qinghai.
Update:
Vietnam has instituted port precautions for "strange diseases". Perhaps that is explained by a somewhat odd article in the Epoch Times claiming that the Sichuan disease might be a strain of Ebola:
The earliest occurrence of this Ebola virus disease can be traced back to Shenzhen city in Guangdong Province. On March 25, 2005, The Epoch Times published an article on the first appearance of the Ebola virus in Shenzhen during February. The virus had already caused several deaths and cases of ‘missing people’ [Editor’s note: rather than accurately reporting the cause of death, the authorities simply claim that victims are ‘missing’].

This article mentioned that medical personnel who had been working in hospitals for years said that they had never seen an illness like it. The bodies of those who died of the illness appeared to be dissolved, much like the Ebola virus in Africa. The main spread of the virus was through blood, causing doctors to die after contact with infected blood.

On March 26, Shenzhen Customs and related hospitals and government departments held a confidential meeting to pass an order from higher authorities to strengthen the hygiene-related work. An insider also disclosed that at dawn on March 26, another suspected Ebola virus death case occurred in Nanao Town, Shenzhen. There are indications that the Ebola virus was already spreading in Mainland China. The CCP blocked this information, telling the outside world that the deaths were caused by the advanced stages of AIDS.
See also this Epoch Times article discussing the odd infection pattern in the sick pigs. This makes no sense:
Four hundred dead pigs have been found across more than 300 individual farming households with poor sanitary conditions. The probability of transmission between pigs is low. In most cases that involved the sudden death of a pig other pigs in the group were not infected.

Chen Chihhai, leader of Ziyang City’s clinical expert group, who had been sent by China’s Medical Department, indicated that the patients had one common characteristic—all of them had experienced direct contact with sick or dead pigs, and their hands had scars from wounds.

The main symptoms included meningitis, endocarditis, septicemia, arthritis, bronchopneumonia and associated fever which, when serious, might cause shock and hemorrhagic agglutination.
and:
A Sichuan Ziyang City resident said that the mystery disease was caused by pigs and sheep raised by individual farmers, and there was basically no connection between villages. So what brought about the infection?

Swine Streptococcus rarely causes community infections. Common antibiotics normally provide very effective cure. Since the means of infection was clear, why were the authorities carrying out postmortem examinations, taking samples, and then cremating the body immediately after the death of a patient? Why did they also require same-day collection and burning of the treatment waste disposals from the infection ward?

It has been reported that, at the present time, the germs have only evolved to the stage of livestock transfer to people, and that the infection would not spread from human to human. So why have the authorities restricted the circulation of people throughout the epidemic area?
First, show me a farmer who doesn't have some scarring on his hands. Second, the infection pattern in the pigs makes little sense for Streptococcus. Third, the control measures don't make much sense. Finally, there were recent heavy rains in Sichuan that might have helped spread some contamination.


Comments:
"...the disease had struck 176 villages." Only 176 villages.

"Beijing, which came under fire for covering up the Sars outbreak two years ago, insisted the pig-borne disease was under control."

Forgive me my restrained enthusiasm.
 
Under such circumstance, it can be assumed that even the Chinese officials making these announcements are avoiding all possible sources of contamination. That would explain the blockading of roads into Beijing.
 
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