Swine bacteria kills man in northern Vietnam

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Tiet canh, or blood pudding, a traditional dish made from raw pig blood considered a delicacy by many Vietnamese. Photo by Ngoc Thang  

A man from Thai Binh Province has been killed by a swine bacteria infection after eating tiet canh (blood pudding) after doctors and scientists issued many warnings against the danger posed by the traditional dish made from uncooked pig blood.

According to his family, they slaughtered a “healthy” pig they bred at home to celebrate Tet, Vietnam’s biggest holiday, on January 28, and made tiet canh with its blood.

One day after eating the dish, the 48-year-old man had high fever, shivers and digestive problems but did not go to the hospital.

The next day, he was exhausted, his blood pressure dropped and he went into shock, prompting his family to bring him to a local health facility, they said.

He was transferred to the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases the next morning (Lunar New Year's Day) and died later that day.

Dr. Nguyen Trung Cap, deputy director of the National Hospital of Tropical Diseases’ Emergency Department said Friday that the victim tested positive for the Streptococcus suis bacteria, a pathogen found in pigs.

Doctors tried to use several treatments and medicines to increase his blood pressure but failed to save him.

Cap said the case progressed very fast as blood pressure fell and he went into shock only one day after he had a fever even though he had yet to develop the typical signs of a bacteria infection at that time.

He told news website Dan Tri that five people in the deceased man’s family ate tiet canh, but only he was infected with the bacteria.

He said that although they all ate the same dish, an infection depends on how each person reacts with the bacteria and on the number of bacteria that are able to penetrate the body.

He told Thanh Nien that the hospital had admitted nearly 10 patients infected with and suspected of having the Streptococcus suis bacteria.

All of them had eaten tiet canh, he said.

He said most of them ate the dish made from their own pigs, Dan Tri reported.

Dr. Do Duy Cuong of Bach Mai Hospital’s Contageon Department, told Vietnam News Agency Friday that his hospital also received many simliar cases over the last 10 days as the patients had been eating tiet canh for the Tet holiday.

Dangerous luck

A common belief among Vietnamese people is that eating the red blood pudding in the beginning of the year will drive away their bad luck from the previous year and bring them luck good for the new year.

Cap said many families often butcher pigs bred at their home and eat tiet canh on Tet as they think homebred pigs cannot be infectious, news website VnExpress reported.

But all pigs pose the risk of carrying the bateria, and it is highly possible that the bacteria be transmitted from the pigs with the bacteria to people who eat their underdone meat or tiet canh.

He said people should not butcher ill or dead pigs.

They should not process raw pork with bare hands, especially when having injuries on their hands, adding that they should wash their hands carefully before and after processing the meat.

They should not eat undercooked pig meat and organs and tiet canh, especially from ill or dead pigs.

Those who have direct contact with the ill or dead pigs should wear protective clothing.

Delitescence lasts from a few hours to three days, and it is recommended that those who have a high fever of 40 to 41 degrees Centigrate, bleeding under the skin, diarrhea, stiff neck and breathing difficulties should be brought to the hospital immediately to prevent death.

The bacteria can cause complications such as septicemia or blood poisoning and meningitis, which can lead to death or other severe complications, and amputation of the hands or legs due to necrosis.

Necrosis caused by the Streptococcus suis bacteria, a pork-based pathogen, which many people have been infected with after eating tiet canh for the Tet holiday. Photo by Ngoc Thang

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