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Japan on high alert over spread of African swine fever

The Yomiuri ShimbunAfrican swine fever (ASF; see below), an infectious livestock disease that affects pigs and other animals, is increasingly likely to spread throughout Japan, prompting the agriculture ministry to strengthen quarantine efforts at airports and ports.

ASF has been found in 48 countries. Seven cases have been confirmed in Japan from October of last year through January where pork containing the ASF virus gene was found at domestic airports.

While humans are not affected by ASF even if they eat contaminated meat, the virus would inevitably affect exports of pork and other products if brought into Japan.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, ASF was detected in China in August 2018, the first confirmation of the virus in Asia. The same virus was also detected in Mongolia in January.

Since the virus was confirmed to be found in China, the agriculture ministry has strengthened quarantine measures at domestic airports and ports as well as at post offices handling international mail.

Intensive inspections are also being conducted on carry-on baggage, including articles brought over from China and Mongolia, by using quarantine detector dogs that can sniff out raw meat and processed meat.

The ASF virus gene was identified in four separate cases in Japan on Jan. 12 and 16, when it was found in carry-on baggage brought from China at Chubu Airport in Aichi Prefecture and Haneda Airport in Tokyo.

According to the ministry, ASF spread from Africa to Europe and Latin America after 1957, with cases confirmed in Russia and Poland since 2007. About 916,000 pigs and boars were slaughtered in China after the virus was discovered locally in August 2018.

The virus is believed to enter countries via international mail and foreign tourists’ carry-on baggage.

Foreign tourists and others discard ASF-infected raw and processed pork, which is consumed by wild boars. The virus then spreads to pigs via watering places, feed and other mediums.

■ African swine fever (ASF)

ASF is a viral disease that infects pigs and boars. It does not infect humans. The virus survives in the bodies of animals for three to six months, and spreads via feces and the raw and processed meat of infected animals. It also spreads through watering places and other mediums that have come into contact with infected animals. ASF is different from the swine cholera found in Gifu Prefecture in September of last year. There are no effective preventive vaccines or cures, and the mortality rate is extremely high.Speech

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