Source AP ©

Pig disease kills two people in Vietnam

Vietnam’s officials urge caution when handling meat or coming into contact with sick pigs after bacterial infection among pigs has killed at least two people in Vietnam and sickened dozens more.

The deaths occurred last month and earlier this month in northern Vietnam. Another 42 people have fallen ill in both the north and the south since January with the disease known as Streptococcus suis, said Nguyen Hong Ha, vice director of Vietnam's National Institute of Contagious and Tropical Diseases.

Streptococcus suis is a bacterial infection that attacks swine and can also spread to people, usually through open sores or wounds on the hands. Thoroughly cooked meat is safe, but eating raw or undercooked meat can also lead to infection.

Twenty-two people, mostly farmers and slaughterhouse workers, have tested positive for the disease at a Hanoi hospital since January, Ha said. They had symptoms that included bleeding under the skin, vomiting and high fever. All of them had been in contact with sick pigs.

Another 20 infections have been reported in southern Ho Chi Minh City, the Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper said in a recent report.

Ha said he feared more cases have gone unreported because only two hospitals are capable of identifying the disease.

"In Vietnam, where many people fearlessly eat or slaughter sick pigs and where blood pudding is a common dish, the situation could be much more serious," he said.

Vietnam reported its first case of Streptococcus suis in 2003.