The Shaanxi Rare Wildlife Rescue and Breeding Research Center in Zhouzhi county, Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, has launched an emergency response system after four giant pandas raised in the centre came down with distemper and one died on Dec 9.
According to Han Xueli, director of the centre's general office, the 8-year-old female panda named Cheng Cheng was diagnosed on Dec 6 with the disease and died at about 1:50 pm on Dec 9.
Distemper is a dangerous disease that mainly infects canine and feline animals. The distemper virus is highly contagious, and the mortality rate can be up to 80 per cent.
From Dec 24 to 30, another three pandas in the centre were also diagnosed as suffering from distemper and the centre was closed on Dec 31.
"Such an epidemic has never hit our centre before," Han said.
The centre followed its emergency plan for disease control and prevention immediately after Cheng Cheng was diagnosed with distemper, putting the animals in separate rooms with a staff member assigned to care for them, and applying high-strength disinfectant over the entire centre, Han said.
"We invited 20 experts on distemper and panda diseases from all over the country to our centre for disease control, treatment and prevention," the director said.
The centre has raised 25 pandas, the third-largest captive panda population in the world, and now has 24 of them.
At present, the sick pandas are undergoing careful treatment and the healthy animals have been isolated and are under close 24-hour monitoring.