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Pig Disease: Do I Need a Doctor?

VIETNAM | Thursday, 26 July 2007 | Views [1034]

We began hearing from some restaurants around Hoi An, that "pig is finished."  We were told it was "bad"... "pig is sick, like chickens used to be," they tell us.  We wondered, however, why some restaurants still serve pork in all the famous local dishes.  There are some restaurants that refuse to serve it, others readily serve it up sauteed and piping hot.  The day after our first local meal, I became ill.  At that point we hadn't been aware of any issues with pork.  Darrin got sick about 12 hours after I did.  Was it the pork?  Or maybe the veggies weren't washed in the purified water as the menu proudly touted?  Or perhaps it was the ice in our fruit shake that did it?  We can't be sure.  What caused us panic was a medical alert that I received by email.  "Pig disease kills two in Vietnam:   An outbreak of Streptococcus suis, a bacterial disease that can spread from infected pigs to humans, has killed two men and infected at least 42 others in Vietnam.  The two deaths were reported separately in early July. Since the beginning of the year, the disease has infected 20 people in southern Vietnam and 22 from the north of the country.  Streptococcus suis can infect individuals who handle raw or undercooked meat. The infections can cause fever and rapid internal hemorrhage.   In a separate epidemic, the province of Quang Nam has reported more than 16,000 pig fatalities from Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus, also known as Lelystad virus or blue ear disease. Reports say that farmers in the area have thrown hundreds of deceased pigs into the local river, causing hazardous water pollution close to the popular tourist town of Hoi An. The areas of Quang Nam and Da Nang have also reported outbreaks of PRRS in pigs."  Great... we've just eaten pork in the town where they have just killed the ill pigs and chucked them into the river, contaminating the water.   We can't be certain that pig is the culprit, but it's 4 days later and I have a fever and still feel ill, even after having started popping Cipro for the 4th time on our trip, and the stomach pain is not getting better.  I emailed the IAMAT doctor (a free international association of medical doctors abroad to help travelers) in Hanoi to describe my symptoms and ask if I should come in for a consult.  No one speaks English well enough to guide me to a doctor who can help, and the IAMAT doc is not responding to the email.  So I go to the pharmacy to see if they can refer me to a doc.  The girl doesn't speak English, but can write some words.  On a sheet of paper she writes, "Do you have stomach?"  "Do you have diarrhoea?"  "Cool," I thought, "she can read and write in English."  So I grabbed a sheet of paper and started writing my symptoms and history of them.  She frantically waved her hands and I soon realized she only knew a few words and didn't know what "English speaking doctor" was.  After handing me several boxes of pills that might help, I finally was able to pantomime and communicate the need to find someone who spoke English.  Her face lit up, and she got on the phone.  A minute later she said, "he come here now."  Hmmm, I wonder, who is "he" and what will "he" cost me?  He finally arrived, a young guy in his 20's who said he was a pharmacist.  Bingo!  He could understand English fairly well, and said maybe I was having a reaction to Cipro... so prescribed me some new meds, and I left feeling a sense of relief...  until later that night we were watching a BBC special on China and their drug manufacturing business, how they've been shipping bad product to developing countries and people are dying from simple things such as antibiotics and cough syrup.  I had blindly trusted that the drugs we pick up in these pharmacies are all FDA cleared... wrong.  Guess we need to be much more careful.

Tags: Doctors, hospitals & health


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