Thursday, August 18

China: Tale of the Blind Men and the Dragon

"Dear Pundita:
About your speculation that the mysterious pig disease is connected with an industrial pollutant or toxic waste, do you think it could be in feed that's been given to both chickens and pigs?
Michelle in Toronto"

"Dear Michelle:
You're trying to reason backward. First study the anecdotal accounts of symptoms in the pigs, chickens and humans that were reportedly infected with the mystery disease. There are reports that "infected" pigs were foaming at the mouth. There are reports of humans vomiting, losing consciousness, hemorrhaging, high fever, severe shock. There are reports of humans dying within hours of eating reportedly infected pork. What does that sound like to you? Sounds like poisoning to me; in any case that would be the first possibility you'd want to attempt to exclude.

Here we come to a snag. China refuses to share any medical data whatsoever about the infected pigs, chickens and humans. What we've gotten instead of data is official claptrap about strep suis and a backdoor report from the Ministry of Health (the Wong interview on Boxun) that characterizes the disease as bubonic plague, Ebola and a virus so weird that Wong confesses he is confounded.

That means we are blindfolded. To compound this problem, everyone is speculating from within their own specialty or area of particular interest. Thus, Henry Niman is looking at the pig disease for a possible connection to a mutated form of H5N1. Patricia Doyle is focused on the possibility of a connection to a biowar experiment. The US military is looking at the disease according to what satellite images show about unusual activity in Sichuan province. And so on.

If you want a ghost of a chance to form a sound working hypothesis about the nature of the outbreak, you first have to study from outside your particular knowledge base. What's needed here is to use a simple database program. It doesn't get more simple than Excel so use that. Then plug in all the symptoms as reported in Epoch Times, Taipei Times, Boxun, Xinhua outlets and so forth, going back to earliest reports. Then try to match those with symptoms of poisoning.

If you find matches, then it's a matter of asking whether the sick piggies could have snuffled up very deadly mushrooms or truffles or whatnot or drunk from a chemical spill, and so on. It's at that point where your question about feed might have relevance.

But one thing you need to keep uppermost in mind: China is one big Love Canal. Ever since they extended an Open Door with No Questions Asked policy to any company that wants to set up a plant there, China's Mainland has become the most toxic place on earth. There are no restrictions on chemical dumping. No restrictions on how to dispose of highly toxic industrial waste. None.

The No Restrictions rule applies to China's companies, as well. That means there is no way you can obtain a complete list of all China's chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

But if you find a match between symptoms and human-made poisons, you might hit it lucky if you then obtained a list of all the foreign chemical and pharmaceutical companies with plants in China and their exact location. And tried to match the list of poisons with the company products and the kind of waste the manufacturing process would likely create.

None of the above means that we're not looking at a true mystery disease. It means you want to attempt to exclude the most obvious possibility first. Yet it's hard to see the obvious from the narrow window of your own area of interest.

If you want to play around with Excel, you can start with one of the earliest newspaper reports to discuss symptoms: Taipei Times July 29 report found here:

Here are descriptions of symptoms from the report:
"Six more towns in Sichuan Province reported cases on Wednesday, in addition to the two cities, Ziyang and Neijiang, where people first fell ill after slaughtering pigs foaming at the mouth last month, the ministry said. [...]

"After killing the pig, our entire family boiled three bowls of pork to eat. After eating just a few mouthfuls of the meat, I felt my heart pound, dizzy and nauseous," Jiang Suhua said.

"Later my legs were so weak I couldn't stand up. My arms and legs also had large blotches of blood under the skin."

Another farmer said that a relative gave him a slice of freshly cut pork and he became dizzy and weak just from taking the pork home.Other symptoms include high fever, vomiting and hemorrhaging, with many patients going into severe shock. Some of the victims died within 10 hours of showing symptoms, reports said.

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