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Hog cholera vaccination may begin in Japan later in Oct.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Kazuo Motohashi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Vaccination of pigs in areas of Japan with confirmed cases of hog cholera could commence later this month after a panel of experts on Thursday approved revised vaccination guidelines, a step necessary for inoculation.

With Japan struggling to contain hog cholera infections that have resulted in over 140,000 pigs being culled over a year, farm minister Taku Eto is expected to endorse the guidelines soon, enabling 10 prefectures to commence vaccination.

The ministry had been cautious about vaccination due to the potential impact on pork exports.

After inoculation, shipments of live animals and fertilized eggs to unvaccinated areas will be banned because it is difficult to differentiate vaccinated pigs from infected animals, according to the ministry.

Shipments of processed meat products will be unaffected.

The 10 prefectures are Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Gunma, Ishikawa, Mie, Nagano, Saitama, Shiga and Toyama. Their governors will formulate programs specifying the quantity of vaccines and areas to be checked by the farm ministry before giving final approval.

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.

The experts at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry also decided Thursday to boost inspections for African swine fever, which is spreading in Asia, allowing testing at the prefectural level.

So far, testing for the disease has only been conducted at state facilities.

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