Chinese sets up block for diseased pork

Beijing and several other cities set up checkpoints on Friday to block diseased pork linked to the deaths of 32 people in China as authorities ordered a halt to the slaughter of infected pigs in Sichuan province.

A veterinary inspection official said screening was tightened on highways leading into the capital from surrounding Hebei province to prevent a health threat to nearly 15 million people.

"City departments have taken effective control measures and stopped the import of pork products from areas affected by the pig-borne disease," Beijing's Food Safety Bureau said Friday afternoon in a statement carried by Xinhua news agency, informs Reuters.

According to LA times, the death toll from a pig-borne disease in southwestern China rose to 31 on Friday as health officials stepped up preventative measures and tried to reassure the public that the government had the outbreak under control.

The disease, blamed on the bacteria streptococcus suis, has swept through dozens of villages in Sichuan province since June, infecting farmers who handled or butchered sick pigs. So far, 152 confirmed and suspected cases have been found, with 27 people hospitalized in critical condition, according to the Ministry of Health. Seven patients have been released from the hospital.

"The epidemic is at present under control," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Health Minister Gao Qiang, who arrived in Sichuan on Thursday to inspect the area.

Gao warned that precautions - including a ban on the killing, transporting and selling of sick pigs - still needed to be taken since the source of the outbreak had not been determined. No person-to-person transmissions have been reported.

The outbreak of the pig-borne disease prompted fears that SARS had returned. China is also trying to contain an outbreak of bird flu in its northwest, where thousands of migratory birds have died.

At least 50,000 health workers have been sent to nearly 1.4 million farming households to register every pig in the region, the China Daily reported.

Officials in the city of Ziyang, where many farmers in surrounding areas have been infected, have issued more than 2 million posters urging farmers not to slaughter or eat sick pigs, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, Beijing has stopped importing pigs and pork products from Sichuan, the Beijing Evening News reported. Inspectors will check markets to make sure none can be found, the newspaper said.

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