Twenty seven dead and 131 now sick with swine flu in China

According to Chinese state media, the number of people infected by what authorities believe is a pig-borne bacterial disease in the southwest has jumped to 131.

According to Chinese state media, the number of people infected by what authorities believe is a pig-borne bacterial disease in the southwest has jumped to 131.

While health officials are insisting that the outbreak can be controlled, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it is closely monitoring developments.

A government spokesman maintains the disease appears to be localised and poses no threat internationally, and insists they have the technology and procedures to bring the disease under control.

According to China's Ministry of Health, three people have died from the infection, bringing the death toll in rural eastern Sichuan province to 27.

The China Daily says that the rise in the number of reported infections did not necessarily mean the disease was spreading, because 12 had contracted the bacteria days before but were only diagnosed on Wednesday.

Apparently streptococcus suis, known as swine flu, is endemic in swine in most pig-rearing countries in the world but human infections are rare, and although China's state media has said no human-to-human infections have been found in Sichuan, the death toll is considered unusually high.

Scientists fear, even though swine flu is not known to have ever been passed between humans, that it could mutate into a strain that could easily pass among people.

Coupled with its deadliness, such a bug could unleash an epidemic, killing many people.

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