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2 pandas dead, 2 confirmed ill, 4 suspected infected

2015-01-07 15:40 CNTV Web Editor: Li Yan


Two giant pandas have died and two others are gravely ill after contracting a measles-like virus at a breeding facility in northwest China.

The Shaanxi Rare Wild Animal Rescue and Research Center has reported that four more bears are suspected to be infected with the virus. The research center has been closed to prevent the disease from further spreading.

Eight-year-old Da Bao died Monday; Cheng Cheng perished last month. They both suffered from canine distemper virus, a highly-infectious disease that attacks the respiratory and nervous systems and has no known cure.

Symptoms include coughing, fever, lethargy, sudden vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

"Canine distemper was originally discovered in dogs. The vaccine available on the market now is made for dogs. There hasn't been any research done on the vaccine to see if it can prevent other animals from being infected; we can only test it and try to protect pandas. For giant pandas, the disease is a highly lethal, infectious disease. The death rate is high, over 90 percent," Jin Yipeng, associate professor with College Of Vet. Medicine, China Agri. Uni., said.

But experts are trying to save the rest. A team of 30 medics in Shaanxi province are caring for two other pandas with the canine distemper, while closely watching another four that they suspect have the disease.

Doctors are monitoring the pandas around the clock, providing intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and administering antibiotics to help ward off secondary infections while the animals fight the virus.

"We should be cautious in this period of time. The infection of the canine distemper virus is a process of fluctuation. There is still the possibility of relapse," Jin said.

The remaining 18 bears have been transported to nature reserves elsewhere in the province and have been placed in isolation.

It is not known how exactly the disease was able to get inside the breeding facility. It is usually passed on through direct contact with bodily fluids of infected animals.

Full sanitary and isolation checks have been put in place. Staff at the Research Center have sealed all channels that could let in dogs or cats.

Giant pandas are a rare species of animal only found in China. There are fewer than 1,600 giant pandas left on earth, and around 350 of those live in breeding centers or zoos.

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