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Pig disease under control in China

Despite the lack of vaccine to meet demand an outbreak of a deadly pig disease that has sent pork prices skyrocketing in China is under control, agriculture officials said Thursday.

Blue ear pig disease has spread throughout most of China, killing 68,000 pigs this year and prompting the slaughter of an additional 175,000, officials said. China has so far vaccinated 100 million pigs.

"There has been progress through efforts in prevention and control of blue ear disease. The epidemic is under control nationwide," Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Xue Liang said at a news conference.

Pork is the staple meat in China, by far the world's largest pork producer. Blue ear pig disease and other factors such as a cyclical shortage in stocks and higher feed costs have sent prices soaring nearly 86 percent this year.

High pork prices helped push China's inflation to 5.6 percent in July, the highest monthly rate in a decade.

But the situation appeared to be improving. The average wholesale price of pork dropped 1.4 percent last week, following a 1.5 percent decline the previous week following government efforts to increase supply, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the Ministry of Commerce.

In July, the number of sick pigs dropped 51.5 percent from the previous month to 47,000, said Li Jinxiang, a chief veterinarian with the agriculture ministry. The number of pigs that died fell 35.9 percent to 13,000.

Li added that blue ear disease may not be solely to blame for the deaths, which could have been caused by a number of swine illnesses present in China.

Though a fifth of China's estimated 500 million pigs had been vaccinated against blue ear disease, there were not enough doses to meet demand.

"I think the current production rate cannot fulfill the needs across the country. But these vaccines can meet the needs of the most affected areas," said Yu Kangzhen, director of the China Institute of Veterinary Drug Control.

Agriculture ministry officials said they were working to increase the number of companies producing vaccines as well as their capacity. Vaccinated pigs are safe to eat.

Also known as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, blue ear disease attacks pigs' anti-bacteria defenses.

There have been no reports of the disease affecting people.