Rodney “Butch” Baker, swine veterinarian at Iowa State University, took part in a recent U.S. research team visit to China to investigate cases of high-fever disease.

Baker accompanied researchers from South Dakota State University, Kansas State University, Massey University in New Zealand and a private company, Tetracore Inc., on a two-week tour of China. The group studied the causes of death of more than 100 million pigs in China during 2007.

Conclusions are being compiled by the National Pork Board, which sponsored the trip, and should be released later this year.

“Our mission was to look at the symptoms and clinical pathology of the disease and, if possible, discover the causative agent,” he says.

China once produced more than 700 million pigs a year, compared to a little more than 100 million pigs raised annually in the United States, Baker analyzes.

“So they lost as many pigs as we produce in our country,” he explains.

Baker says pork is the meat of choice in China, and its loss has had a profound effect. “We were there for two weeks and were served one pork meal the entire time.”