Japan officially lost its disease-free status for classical swine fever (CSF) on Sept. 3. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) gave Japan a two-year suspension status on Sept. 3, 2018, after the country reported the first CSF outbreak in 26 years at a pig farm in Gifu Prefecture.
In order to regain the disease-free status from OIE, Japan must ensure that there are no reported cases for one year and that no vaccinations are carried out during that time for the disease.
Since the outbreak occurred, the disease has been discovered at pig farms in 10 prefectures, including Aichi, Saitama and Nagano. According to the Japan Times, a total of 166,000 pigs have been slaughtered.
Over the past two years, the agriculture ministry tried to contain the disease by culling pigs, but the disease continued to wage war on the country – mainly in central and eastern Japan.
CSF, also known as hog cholera, affects only pigs and wild boars and has a high fatality rate. It does not affect humans, even if meat from an infected animal is consumed.
Wild boars are thought to be the major cause of disease spread in Japan. In March 2019, Aichi Prefectural Government officials began vaccinating wild boars. Officials placed feed containing a vaccine on the ground at select locations in Aichi Prefecture, including a forest in Komaki. This was Japan’s first attempt at vaccinating wild animals in the country.
In September 2019, Japan decided to allow the vaccination of pigs to prevent CSF. The ministry had to weigh the decision to allow vaccination of pigs during a time when the country was aiming to expand pork exports. Senior ministry officials were quoted saying they did not want to use vaccines, but felt they had no choice as the disease continued to spread.
According to the Japan Times, Japan exported about 2,000 tons of pork annually in prior years. Hong Kong and Singapore plan to continue to import Japanese pork, but only from areas without vaccinations.
Japan will not be able to start exports to the United States, the European Union or other CSF-free countries that have not imported Japanese pork, the Japan Times reports. Taiwan and other economies without the status may urge Japan to lift its ban on pork imports from them.
Are the vaccinations working?
Japan has not confirmed a CSF infection at any pig farm since a case reported in Okinawa prefecture in March 2020. Vaccinations and hygiene control measures by farmers have been attributed to this improvement, the article said.
However, infected wild boars are still being found. To date, 17 prefectures have confirmed these infections. The risk of domestic pig infections will not disappear as long as the disease continues to spread among wild boars.
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