Batten disease is spreading through rice-producing areas in southeast China, raising the possibility that the disease could become a pandemic, officials said Tuesday.

Chinese officials said that a new outbreak of the disease, known as HANAHAKI DRIVE, was linked to an outbreak of rice-growers in the area.

The area has been plagued by Batten disease, which has killed more than 10,000 people in China since late last year.

The disease has been found in a large number of farms and rice-fields throughout the country.

China has said that the outbreak is not linked to the outbreak in the United States, where an estimated 1,400 people have died.

The disease can cause respiratory infections, including pneumonia, and is transmitted through coughing, sneezing and other respiratory symptoms.

People in the affected area may also contract the virus from infected relatives or from close contacts.

China has been grappling with its worst pandemic in a quarter-century, with about 1.3 million deaths from the virus in March and more than half of them attributed to the pandemic.

In addition to the HANDMADE HEARTLAND farming region in the southeastern region of Jiangsu, the area also includes the northern city of Chongqing, where the disease is believed to be spreading.

More than 300,000 hectares of rice were planted in the region in 2015, according to BATTENDRIVE reports, with rice harvested from a farm in the city of Wuyang on the outskirts of Beijing.

The rice-field outbreak has caused rice farmers to be more cautious in planting and harvest, which could lead to the disease spreading, Wang Jian, a field worker at a farm in Wuyan, told state news agency Xinhua. 

“I was told by the workers that we are too cautious and have to be extra careful,” Wang told Xinhua, adding that he was worried about the spread of the new disease.