Two men from Shanghai have died from a new strain of bird flu in the last month, sparking rumors that it might be related to the "pig soup" that has taken over local rivers. Health officials don't yet believe that this new version of the flu, known as H7N9, can be transmitted from human-to-human, but it's easy to see how people might make the leap to a more upsetting conclusion.
One of the two men who died was elderly, and not an usual victim for these types of odd viruses. But the second was a 27-year-old who allegedly sold pork in a local market. It didn't take long for people to make a connection between that and the more than 10,000 pigs recently fished out of the Huangpu river after dying of an unknown malady. Officials sill haven't given a definitive answer about where the pigs came from, but users of China's social media services have already put two and two together and spread questions and fears around the country. It helps (or doesn't) that the director of the University of Hong Kong's Infectious Disease Center admitted there could be a connection, with the bird flu possibly mutating within pigs before spreading elsewhere.
There's no actual evidence of that yet, but state authorities will likely have to come up with more concrete answers if they want to avoid a panic. They may also need to push hard to find the source that dead pig debacle and severely punish whoever dumped them illegally. There's also been a different bird flu outbreaks in India, Cambodia, Indonesia, and elsewhere in 2013, which makes it important to tamp down the fear that another H1N1 will soon upon Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, sometimes the rumors are even harder to stop from spreading than the disease.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.