The General Department of Preventive Medicine under the Vietnamese Ministry of Health issued a warning earlier this month concerning eating raw pork after dozens of Streptococcus suis infections were reported this year and the holiday season around the corner.

Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

According to the Deputy Director of Preventive Health, Dr. Truong Dinh Bac, 82 cases have been reported in 2015, including 10 deaths.

20 percent of cases were reported in Hanoi.

According to the statistics, seven out of 10 S. suis cases were contracting raw pork or pork products like blood pudding. Much of the remaining cases are infected during the slaughter of the pig.

Swine streptococcus disease occurs sporadically throughout the year in Vietnam, with increases during the end of the year when celebration occur and blood pudding is consumed during celebrations. 

Human Streptococcus suis infection is a zoonotic infection associated with pigs. The infection can be fatal, particularly if the specific strain produces certain toxins. S. suis infection can manifest itself in meningitis, toxic shock, septicemia and endocarditis.

According to an official with the Central Tropical Disease Hospital, “A patient with Streptococcus suis S. suis meningitis or septicemia must be hospitalized for several weeks at a great cost, depending on how severe the sequelae.”

Eating undercooked infected pork and blood paste are common ways people contract the disease.

Proper cooking of pork meat or porcine organs eliminates the risk of infection with Streptococcus suis. The infection in humans is not only seen in those who consume raw pork, but also in those who slaughter and prepare the meals.

Streptococcus suis infection can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.

To prevent the disease, members of the public are advised to always practise personal and environmental hygiene. They should avoid contact with pigs that are sick or dead from diseases and their excreta or body fluid. If contact with pigs or raw pork is necessary, one should: Use protective gloves; Wash hands after handling pigs or raw pork; and Clean and cover all wounds properly.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

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