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Mystery illness kills 17 in China

Associated Press

BEIJING – A mystery disease that has killed 17 farmers who handled sick pigs or sheep in China’s southwest is unrelated to bird flu or SARS and is probably caused by bacteria carried by pigs, state media reported Monday.

An additional 41 people were hospitalized in Sichuan province with symptoms that include high fever, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and “became comatose later with bruises under the skin,” the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said 12 were in critical condition.

The illness likely stems from streptococcus suis, a bacteria that is usually spread among pigs, provincial health official Zeng Huajin was quoted as saying by the China Daily newspaper.

“I can assure you that the disease is absolutely not SARS, anthrax or bird flu,” Zeng said. He did not elaborate on how the illness spread to humans, saying more research needed to be done.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said the symptoms reported “seem consistent” with streptococcus suis.

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