Swine fever still spreading in Japan after 1-year effort to end outbreak: 40 cases found in 4 prefectures

TOKYO, Sep. 10 – A year has passed since Japan found its first swine fever case in 26 years at a pig farm on September 9, 2018. So far, more than 130,000 pigs were culled at 40 pig farms in four prefectures. New cases are found every week. The measures to contain the disease have not been successful, and farmers are increasingly exhausted.

In the past twelve months, the outbreak expanded from Gifu Prefecture to Aichi, Mie, and Fukui Prefecture, and the number of the cases reached 40 by September 8. Wild boars which carry the virus are found in Nagano, Toyama, and Ishikawa Prefectures, and they are making the farmers efforts even more difficult.

The farm ministry’s swine fever epidemiological research team analyzed the gene of the virus and said the virus has presumably came from China or countries near China. According to the research body, an unquarantined infected pork products were possibly brought to Japan in hand luggage or international parcels. The food carrying the virus was probably discarded and infected a wild boar which ate it, the researchers said.

Gifu City thinks that there were infected wide boars in late June last year, three months before it confirmed the first case. It assumes so as the city found more dead wild boars than usual around that time.

World Organization for Animal Health once put Japan in the list of clean countries as it was free from the disease for 26 years. The infected pigs showed very weak symptoms and the death rate was low. So, it was difficult for farmers to identify the case. Also, it was found out that the disease does not kill infected wild boars quickly, and so, they kept spreading the virus. Therefore, in March this year, Japan started to vaccinate wild boars by giving feed containing a vaccine, in its first attempt to vaccinate wild animals.

So far, the farmers have been very quick to start culling their pigs and sterilizing their farms. They strictly obeyed the rules to control the entry into the farms in accordance with the country’s standards of rearing hygiene management. But still, they see no end to the outbreak. On September 5, the Japanese government held a task force meeting to review measures for better controlling infected wild boars and supporting the pig farms. The government is studying all possible measures, including vaccination of pigs.

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