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Strange disease kills 17 in Southwest China
By Wang Zhenghua in Beijing and Albert Auyeung in Hong Kong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-25 05:39

Investigations are under way after a mysterious disease killed 17 farm workers and left at least 12 in a critical condition in hospital in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

A doctor carries the urine sample of the infected at the First People's Hospital in Ziyang, Sichuan Province, July 24, 2005. [Lang Qingxiang/Chongqing Morning Daily] 
Zeng Huajin, a senior official with the provincial health department, said the deadly illness was "probably" caused by streptococcus suis, a bacteria usually spread among pigs.

"I can assure you that the disease is absolutely not SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), anthrax or bird flu," the official said last night.

"If it is caused by streptococcus suis, we still need further research," he added.

An initial 20 farm workers who handled sick or dead pigs and sheep in 12 towns and 15 villages in Jianyang city and Ziyang city's Yanjiang district suffered from high fever, nausea, vomiting and haemorrhaging.

But more cases were reported as health workers began to search villages for the sick.

"By noon on Saturday, 58 people suspected of having the disease had been reported in Ziyang and (neighbouring) Neijiang," according to a statement last night from the provincial health department.

"Two people (of those 58) have been released from hospital while 27 of them are recovering," the statement said.
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