First African Swine Fever Outbreaks in Cambodia, While Japan Detects Active Virus

April 4, 2019 Updated: April 6, 2019

Japan has detected its first cases of active African swine fever (ASF) virus in two sausages brought into the country by two travelers returning from China, according to local media reports. At the same time, Cambodia reported its first ASF outbreak, which has killed 500 pigs.

Taiwan has found the 36th meat product, all from China, infected with the ASF virus. However, the virus was de-active in all cases.

ASF is a highly contagious and deadly disease affecting pigs and wild boars; there’s no cure or vaccine. However, the disease has no known harmful effect on humans, even if infected pork products are consumed.

First Outbreak in Cambodia

The World Organization for Animal Health sent out a notification to global hog business-related organizations on April 3, in which it announced the first ASF outbreak in Cambodia.

The notification said 400 pigs died from the disease and another 100 pigs were culled.

The outbreak is in the northeastern-most Rattanakiri province, which borders Vietnam.

Vietnamese authorities in turn reported its first ASF case on Feb. 19.

The country is bordered by China in the north; most of its 556 cases of ASF outbreak has occurred in this northern area. Some Vietnamese officials have said the virus may have entered the country via people who brought infected pigs from China, or from China-made hog feed.

According the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, since Feb. 19, 23 out of Vietnam’s 58 provinces have reported outbreaks, with more than 89,600 pigs culled.

Since the ASF outbreak swept through China, its northern neighbor Mongolia has also detected ASF, which had not seen the disease prior to China’s outbreak.

According to FAO, at least 3,115 pigs have died from the disease or have been culled, which is about 10 percent of the total pig population in Mongolia.

First Active ASF Virus in Japan

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries announced on April 2 that found the ASF virus at an infectious stage in two homemade sausages that was brought into Japan by two travelers.

Since last summer, Japan had continuously detected ASF-infected meat products brought in by travelers from China, but this is the first time authorities have found an active ASF virus.

Asahi Shimbun reported that a male and female passenger took different flights from China’s Shanghai and Qingdao cities respectively, and arrived at the Chubu airport near Nagoya City on Jan. 12. The passengers did not know each other. Customs officials discovered their sausages, which both said were purchased souvenirs from China.

Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization tested the sausages and found active ASF viruses which can spread the disease among hogs.

Japan Times reported that the country prohibits people from bringing “unauthorized animal products,” with a punishable fine of up to one million yen ($8,964) or imprisonment for up to three years.

However, authorities had only punished serious violators such as those who import products for sale.

Asahi Shimbun reported that authorities will now take more stronger action against violators beginning on April 22.

Other Asian Countries

To keep the disease out, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other countries have launched strict procedures at their ports of entry since the first ASF outbreak in China in August last year.

In December 2018, Taiwan set up an “ASF Central Disaster Response Center” to coordinate disease control.

On April 2, the Taiwan center said it found two new cases of ASF-infected meat. One was dried pork that was mailed from China’s Jiangsu Province. The other was pork sausage made in China’s Heilongjiang Province that a Chinese traveler brought from Hong Kong.

The center found its first infected product in October 2018.

It has urged people not to bring any unauthorized animal and plant products to Taiwan, and or mail them to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, in China, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs confirmed in a statement on April 4 that the outbreak has spread to Xinjiang, the 29th region out of China’s 31, to have ASF. The disease killed 15 pigs, while the other 200 pigs on the pig farm were culled.

This leaves only Tibet, at the most western region of China, and the island province of Hainan, as ASF-free.

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