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From Staff Reports
A virulent swine virus is “sweeping” China’s pig population – causing pork prices to spike, and spawning fears of a pandemic that could race through this huge country’s pig farms, according to a report in the International Herald Tribune newspaper. This is a development investors should watch, for if it ends up affecting farm prices, causing other countries to block China’s massive exports, the billions of dollars worth of sales that have fueled that country’s stunning growth – and its $1.33 trillion foreign reserves surplus. The newspaper cites animal virus experts who say that Chinese authorities are playing down the gravity and spread of the disease. That’s no surprise, given that critics have made similar claims about China’s attempts at covering up the damage and disease resulting from its pollution problems. "They haven't really explained what this virus is," Federico Zuckermann, a professor of immunology at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, told the newspaper in an interview. "This is like SARS. They haven't sent samples to any international body. This is really irresponsible of China. This thing could get out and affect everyone."
Although it appears this affliction won’t affect human beings, because Chinese authorities are not being at all forthcoming about just what, exactly, this malady is, publications are terming it a “mystery virus.” In reality, however, the virus is believed to be a highly contagious – and very deadly – form of an infection known as “blue-ear pig disease,” the Herald Tribune reported. It is currently estimated that the disease has spread to 25 of this country's 33 provinces and regions – touching off the biggest run of focused inflation the country has seen in 10 years, and causing rampant shortages of pork, which is a staple at every meal of the day, including breakfast.
Officials in Beijing worry that widespread pork shortages and soaring food prices could prompt panic, unrest or inflation, undermining a sizzling economy. Trying to contain the damage, the government has announced a series of emergency measures, offering aid, incentives and free vaccines to farmers. But some experts figure that China – the world’s No. 4 exporter of pigs – is probably already sending the disease out into the worldwide economy. “This is already (a) threat to the global industry," Trevor Drew, head of virology at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Weybridge, in southeast England, told the Herald Tribune in an interview. "It would be naïve to think we could contain this virus."