Shanghai Finds Pig Virus in Local River as Carcasses Pile Up

Shanghai said it detected traces of a virus that may have killed pigs found in a river that runs through the city as the government reported the number of dead animals retrieved from the water more than doubled.

Porcine circovirus, a common disease among hogs that isn’t known to be infectious to humans, was found in a sample taken from the Songjiang section of the Huangpu river, Shanghai’s agriculture department said, citing the city’s animal disease control authorities. Tests conducted hourly on the river, which provides drinking water for some of the municipality’s 23 million residents, were negative for other diseases including foot-and-mouth, swine fever, hog cholera and blue-ear, it said.

The Shanghai government said today on its official Weibo microblog account that the total number of carcasses found in the Songjiang and Jinshan districts has risen to more than 2,800 as of yesterday, up from the more than 1,200 reported earlier. A preliminary investigation showed the dead pigs, which include piglets and mature hogs, had floated down the river from neighboring Zhejiang province, it said.

Discovery of the dead pigs is the latest scare in China, where the government has come under criticism for its handling of health and environmental issues. The government announced yesterday a plan for a regulator with broader authority to ensure food and drug safety and said the agriculture ministry will oversee the quality of farm products, underpinning its pledge to crack down on violations and better protect consumers.

Potential Outbreaks

Residents along the river had reported finding dead pigs in the water previously, the Shanghai government said on its website today. The city has instructed responsible departments to ensure that its water supply meets national standards, according to its microblog.

China had more than 460 million hogs in inventory as of December, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. The nation is the world’s biggest consumer and producer of pork.

“We have heard increased reports of outbreaks from our customers, and so far they don’t appear to be serious, although they can potentially develop,” James Feng, general manager of, China’s biggest independent hog researcher, said by phone from Beijing. “Given the magnitude of China’s hog herds, it’s not uncommon to have thousands of pigs killed by diseases,” he said.

China hasn’t found any “serious” outbreaks of animal disease even though the country is prone to such incidents during the Spring, Vice Agriculture Minister Chen Xiaohua said at a briefing in Beijing today.

There’s no evidence that porcine circovirus is a safety risk or causes illness in humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

In January 2012, a cadmium spill in a tributary of the Pearl River triggered panic buying of bottled water, while a 2010 waste leak into a river in southern Fujian province killed almost 2,000 tons of fish.