Source AP ©

China trying to combat rampant pig disease

The blue pig disease is the reason of deaths or slaughters of nearly 90,000 pigs in China, a Ministry of Agriculture official said Wednesday. That fact is a part of the cause of a spike in pork prices.

The epidemic has now spread to 25 provinces or regions, said Li Jinxiang, a veterinarian with the ministry. China has 23 provinces, five autonomous regions and four self-governed municipalities.

Li told a news conference that by the start of this week, 165,144 pigs had contracted the disease. So 45,546 had died and another 42,728 had been slaughtered.

Li said the ministry had developed a vaccine for the epidemic and would start delivering it next month.

Last week, the ministry said wholesale prices for pork had jumped nearly 75 percent in the last year. Prices are expected to remain high, fueling fears of higher inflation, which rose to 3.4 percent in May, the highest in two years.

China's leaders have expressed concern about the prices. In May, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered local governments to increase food assistance for low-income families and to offer farmers subsidies to encourage pig-rearing.

Many farmers have stopped raising pigs for fear they might be stricken by the disease, authorities say.

The disease, also called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, was first identified in the United States in 1987, according to the Web site of the World Organization for Animal Health.

The disease does not affect people but can be fatal to pigs.

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