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Japan gov't plans to expand pig vaccination area to fight hog cholera

In this Sept. 14, 2019 photo, workers in hazmat suits scatter caustic lime on a street near a pig farm in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, for sterilization after the confirmation of a hog cholera outbreak. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan plans to expand the area for pig vaccination following the confirmation of hog cholera infections in two wild boars in Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, the farm ministry said Friday.

The government will seek opinions from experts on vaccination before the prefectural governor makes a final decision that will bring the number of prefectures where pigs will be vaccinated to 10.

Japan has been struggling to tackle an outbreak of the disease that has resulted in over 140,000 pigs being culled over a year.

In Gunma Prefecture, no pigs have been confirmed infected with the disease so far. But there is concern that any infection from wild boars could significantly impact the fourth-largest pork producer among the nation's 47 prefectures.

Around 630,000 pigs were being raised in Gunma Prefecture as of February, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

The ministry has already listed Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Mie, Nagano, Saitama, Shiga and Toyama prefectures for vaccination, where hog cholera cases have been confirmed.

Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures, located near those areas, have also requested vaccination, but Eto said whether to inoculate pigs in the two regions will depend on the availability of vaccines.

The ministry had been cautious about vaccination due to the impact on pork exports. But it switched its policy last month due to the outbreak and is working to revise the relevant guideline.

On Friday, Cabinet members reaffirmed their policy of strengthening measures against the epidemic through pig vaccination and increased catches of wild boars.

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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