58 Chinese Farmers Stricken with Mysterious Illness That Kills 17

As if the threats posed by Avian (Bird) Flu, West Nile Virus, Marburg Virus, SARS, Legionnaires’ disease, and HIV/AIDS were not enough to worry the average person, reports out of Beijing now indicate a new, and apparently quite deadly, mystery illness has appeared.

In southwestern China, some 58 farmers have been stricken with a flu-like illness that has killed 17. The symptoms include high fever, fatigue, nausea, hemorrhaging, and vomiting followed by coma and bruises under the skin.

Only 2 of those affected have recovered while 12 remain in critical and 27 in stable condition. Medical experts have not seen any evidence that the illness is spreading or signs of an epidemic.

The cause of the illness remains a mystery although it seems clear that all of the cases are associated with the butchering of sick pigs or sheep. Because of this factor, health officials suspect some type of bacterial infection is involved. One possibility is that the illness may be caused by streptococcus suis, a bacteria typically spread by pigs.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that it did not appear that this situation was related to the viral disease known as avian (bird) flu.

The victims appear to have suffered from poisoning-related shock syndrome and were acutely infected according to an unidentified worker at one of the hospitals where some of the victims were being treated.

Hong Kong has issued an alert to its hospitals to be on the lookout for any patient who presents with symptoms similar to those suffered by the mainland Chinese patients. In 2003, some 299 people in Hong Kong were killed by SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which originated on the mainland.

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