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As half of Japan struggles, vaccinating against hog cholera epidemic begins

Christian Fernsby ▼ | October 26, 2019
Vaccinations against hog cholera began for the first time in 13 years at farms in six of the 11 prefectures in Japan struggling to battle the epidemic.
Asia   Pig farms began the inoculations Friday
Pig farms in six prefectures in the Tokai and Hokuriku regions began the inoculations Friday, with the remaining five prefectures set to begin vaccinating pigs against the deadly disease from Saturday, the agriculture ministry said.

Topics: Japan hog cholera

Friday's mass vaccinations started at farms in Aichi, Fukui, Gifu, Ishikawa, Mie and Toyama prefectures, while Saturday's inoculations will comprise farms in Gunma, Nagano, Saitama and Shiga, with Shizuoka Prefecture still to report on the number of pigs it plans to vaccinate.

Earlier this month, revisions to guidelines needed to vaccinate pigs in Japan were made by the government, with Japan's Farm Minister Taku Eto telling a press briefing on the issue that the disease had seen more than 140,000 pigs culled and thus the vaccinations had to be prepared.

Japan had previously been wary about vaccinating pigs due to the negative impact on its pork product export markets, but in a change in policy, the farm ministry will now not just vaccinate pigs, but has also urged pharmaceutical companies to increase their output of the vaccines.

No infections of hog cholera had been recorded in Japan since the first outbreak in 1992 and the virus was declared eradicated in 2007, according to official records.

But hog cholera, also known as swine flu, was first detected on farms in Gifu Prefecture in September last year, but has been newly detected in numerous other prefectures across Japan.

A vaccine that could have countered the hog cholera epidemic in the first instance and bring it under control was snubbed by the government, with Yasuhiro Ozato, a then senior vice farm minister, expressing concern about using the vaccine.

The government at the time advocated for raising hygiene standards, as there was concern that using the vaccine would hinder Japan from regaining its suspended World Organization for Animal Health status and from being able to expand its pork exports.

Japan at that time also feared that if the vaccines were used, it would fail to regain its status as a Classic Swine Fever (CSF) free country, which would severely hamper the nation's pork industry.

After all the vaccinations have been completed, Japan will now have to make sure that no cases of hog cholera are reported for a year if it wants to regain its World Organization for Animal Health status as a country free of the disease.