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9 Japan prefectures selected for pig vaccination to tackle hog cholera

A worker in hazmat suits scatters caustic lime on a street near a pig farm in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, eastern Japan, for sterilization on Sept. 14, 2019, after the confirmation of a hog cholera outbreak. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Nine prefectures with confirmed cases of hog cholera have been selected as areas for pig vaccination, the farm ministry said Friday.

The Japanese government has been struggling to tackle an outbreak of the disease that has resulted in over 130,000 pigs being culled over a year.

The governors of Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Mie, Nagano, Saitama, Shiga and Toyama will decide on whether to proceed with vaccination in their prefectures, which would require the ministry to revise relevant guidelines and conduct public consultations.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries presented a draft of revised guidelines and a list of proposed prefectures to a panel of epidemiologists.

Restrictions on live animal movements would be imposed with vaccination, but transportation of butchered and processed meat outside of the prefectures would be effectively approved, according to the ministry.

The ministry had been cautious about vaccination due to the impact on pork exports, but it has switched policy as the outbreak, which commenced in September 2018, continues. It also plans to request that pharmaceutical companies boost production of hog cholera vaccines.

Japan currently holds stocks of vaccines sufficient to inoculate around a million pigs, but the government believes increased output is necessary because the eradication process may take a long time and the areas requiring vaccination could also expand.

The disease, also known as swine fever, only affects pigs and wild boars and has a high fatality rate. It does not affect humans, even if meat from an infected animal is consumed.

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