updated 7/31/2005 5:09:37 PM ET 2005-07-31T21:09:37

A slaughterhouse worker contracted a pig-borne disease in southern China, a hospital official said Saturday. He was the first mainland case outside the Sichuan province, where 32 farmers have died since June from the illness.

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Some 163 confirmed and suspected cases blamed on the bacteria streptococcus suis have been found in Sichuan in China’s southwest, where farmers who handled or butchered infected pigs have been sickened in dozens of villages and towns.

The latest case is a 43-year-old man in Chaozhou, a city in Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong and is hundreds of miles southeast of Sichuan. He “recovered and was discharged,” said an official from the Chaozhou Central Hospital, who would not give her name or any other details.

It wasn’t clear whether Chinese health officials believed the case was linked to the Sichuan outbreak.

Phone calls to other government offices in Guangdong rang unanswered.

Guangdong officials provided information on the case to authorities in Hong Kong but didn’t say whether they thought it was linked to Sichuan, said Eva Wong, a spokeswoman for the territory’s Health Department.

An official of the Hong Kong Center for Health Protection, Ching Cheuk-tuen, said initial evidence shows the Guangdong man fell ill after direct contact with pigs.

“The information given to us by Guangdong health officials shows they do not consider it to be special or unusual,” Ching told reporters.

One case was reported in Hong Kong this week, but Wong said it wasn’t believed to be connected to the Sichuan outbreak because the man hadn’t traveled in the month before his illness.

It was Hong Kong’s 10th such case since May 2004, according to the Health Department.

In Sichuan, 24 people are hospitalized in critical condition and 11 have been discharged, the Chinese Health Ministry said Saturday on its Web site. No person-to-person transmissions have been reported.

Cases have been found in five new sites in Sichuan, including the provincial capital of Chengdu, the China Daily newspaper said.

The official Xinhua News Agency said no family members of the man in Guangdong have shown symptoms, which include nausea, fever, vomiting, and bleeding under the skin.

Reports of the latest outbreak triggered fears that another epidemic was sweeping China, which has battled severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and avian influenza in the past two years.

The World Health Organization said it is the largest recent outbreak of the pig-borne disease in the region.

Xinhua on Thursday cited China’s Health Minister, Gao Qiang, as saying the epidemic appeared to be under control in Sichuan but warning that the region still needs to take precautions.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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