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Hog cholera outbreak spreads; farm minister says situation 'extremely serious'

Workers involved in the culling of pigs at a farm in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, are seen on Feb. 6, 2019, after hog cholera infections were confirmed there. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

TOKYO -- The outbreak of hog cholera has been confirmed in five prefectures, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said on Feb. 6.

"We face an extremely serious situation. We must prevent any further spread of the infection by all means," Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Takamori Yoshikawa told a meeting of a government task force on the issue on Feb. 6. "The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will play a leading role in thoroughly implementing countermeasures.

The ministry has confirmed that pigs at a farm in the central Japan prefecture of Aichi were infected with hog cholera, officials said on Feb. 6.

Moreover, some young pigs that were shipped from the farm to areas in the central Japan prefectures of Nagano and Gifu and the western Japan prefectures of Shiga and Osaka have also tested positive for hog cholera.

A worker examines an area near a pig farm in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, where pigs were found with hog cholera, on Feb. 6, 2019. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

The first case of hog cholera infection in 26 years was confirmed in Gifu Prefecture in September 2018.

According to the ministry, a pig farm in the Aichi Prefecture city of Toyota shipped young pigs to farms in Nagano, Shiga, Gifu and Osaka prefectures as well as the western Japan prefecture of Mie between January and February this year.

The ministry examined pigs at these facilities and found some of them were showing symptoms of hog cholera. The ministry began to cull all of some 7,600 pigs raised at these facilities in these prefectures except Mie, bringing the total number of pigs to be slaughtered since the current outbreak of the disease to some 26,000.

No pigs at surrounding facilities or wild boars have so far been confirmed with hog cholera viruses.

The farm ministry also dispatched state minister of agriculture Yasuhiro Ozato and experts in animal infectious diseases to Gifu and Aichi prefectures on Feb. 6, instructing all pig-breeding farms in these administrative districts to abide by sanitation standards such as disinfection of their facilities and preventing wild boars from entering the farms.

Hog cholera is known for its contagiousness and high fatality rate. People are resistant to the disease and eating meat from infected pigs does not pose a health risk.

A survey conducted by the national government has confirmed that the virus was brought into Japan from overseas. Experts have pointed out that the disease has possibly spread through wild boars.

The Gifu and Aichi prefectural governments have installed fences around their borders with other prefectures to prevent their local wild boars from entering other areas. The agriculture ministry announced on Feb. 5 that it will implement additional countermeasures such as financial assistance for local governments' efforts to prevent the spread of the disease.

(Japanese original by Akiko Kato, Business News Department)

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