A total of 122 dogs and 410 pigs were found dead on Monday by residents of Luoyang village in Henan province in central China, adding to the alarm that the thousands of animals that have mysteriously died in China during the past month might be connected to the spread of the H7N9 strain of bird flu.
Villagers reported finding the bodies of the dogs in homes and on farms, and local officials said that dogs not already dead are dying. The carcasses of the 410 pigs have been removed from farms this week, according to the Yanshi city website.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that some village residents blamed the deaths on gas emissions from the nearby Luoyang Jinfu Chemical Factory, saying there had been an “extremely strong odor” on Monday morning, according to China.org.cn.
All nearby factories have been ordered to stop production and cooperate with a possible criminal investigation, according to a report on Henan’s official news site.
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Chinese officials admit that no poisonous gases have been found in tests on the air around the village and its drinking water has met quality standards, according to the report.
Still, local authorities are insisting that the deaths of the dogs and pigs are not related to the H7N9 bird flu virus that has recently spread to humans in China.
The discovery of more than 16,000 dead pigs last month in Shanghai’s main Huangpu river sparked public health concerns because it supplies about 25 per cent of the city’s drinking water. The dead bodies of thousands of ducks and swans have also washed up on river banks all over China, spurring concerns about a possible epidemic of bird flu.
Authorities announced in March that they had confirmed the H7N9 strain of avian influenza in people for the first time. It has so far killed 16 people and infected 78, according to reports--mostly in eastern China.
Chinese health authorities say they do not know exactly how the virus is spreading, but it is believed to be crossing to humans from birds, triggering mass poultry culls in several cities and the threat of a permanent ban on the sale of live poultry in “wet markets” in Shanghai.