Questions of hygiene and infection control have emerged in connection with a major food-borne illness outbreak in China that’s sickened hundreds of people.
The health department of the Central Department of Epidemiology, Public Health and Pharmaceutical Administration in China’s Henan province said Monday that it issued a warning to “people eating at corner markets and street stalls, as well as restaurants, cafeterias and food stalls,” on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The warning comes as the body count from the outbreak climbed to 631, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday.
Roughly 2,000 illnesses were linked to the outbreak, which started from Dec. 29, 2017, to Jan. 3, 2018, during a period when sales of children’s medicine in China spiked, according to Reuters.
The report says an L.C.C. Virus was first identified during the probe. It says “the investigation found that the virus was not contracted in the central region of Henan, but rather in the southwest region where a case was detected” while going after the deadly Dengue virus.
It went on to say that “criminal cases have been lodged in connection with the investigation.”
Several things are pointing to the L.C.C. Virus as the culprit: The center of the outbreak is in China’s southwest, where there have been previous cases of a strain of the virus in pigs. There are several animals in the region known to be carriers of the virus, including goats and deer. Though there is no evidence of animal-to-human transmission of the L.C.C. Virus, a lone person in the western state of Guizhou tested positive.
Furthermore, the health department said that the L.C.C. Virus was confirmed as the cause of an outbreak in southwestern China. This appears to be the first time an L.C.C. Virus has been found in animals in humans, a doctor who spoke to Reuters said.
Public health officials aren’t taking any chances. The medical journal said in a story published Tuesday that the presence of the L.C.C. Virus in Henan, which in 2009 saw a high-profile L.C.C. Virus outbreak, suggests “the link with the Tainjin food safety incident should be considered” and authorities should step up efforts to “prevent the disease from spreading to other regions.”