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Taiwan steps up efforts to keep ASF out

UPDATE: Hogs on farms near the location where the ASF-positive carcass was found test negative for the virus. Surveillance will continue.

Compiled by Kevin Schulz
The discovery of two hogs found dead, one confirmed African swine fever-positive, in an offshore county of Taiwan has that country’s government on high alert, raising concerns that the Chinese ASF outbreak could spread to Taiwan.

According to an article on the Focus Taiwan News Channel website, a dead hog was “spotted Friday on a beach in Xiaoqiu islet, Kinmen County, four days after a first carcass was found at another coastal location in Kinmen.” Coast Guard Administration Director-General Lee Chung-wei suggests that it was clear that this dead pig was brought by the tide as there are no pig farms on the Kinmen-administrated islet.

Samples were collected from this hog carcass, after which the carcass was incinerated on site. Wen Shui-cheng, director of the Kinmen County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center, says veterinarians brought the samples back to Kinmen’s main island, traveling over 100 kilometers by boat, which is the lone form of transportation between the Xiaoqiu islet and the outside world.

Wen says the samples should reach the Council of Agriculture’s Animal Health Research Institute on Taiwan for testing Saturday, with results available within 24 hours.

That first hog, found Monday on a beach in Kinmen’s Jinsha Township, was confirmed ASF-positive on Thursday, concerning authorities that ASF could spread to Taiwan and Kinmen, which is within about 1.2 miles east of the mainland China city of Xiamen.

According to the Focus Taiwan News Channel article, quarantine personnel were dispatched to the 10 hog farms situated within a 5 km radius of the first site to collect tissue samples for ASF testing, according to the Kinmen County Animal and Plant Disease Control Center.

Wen says there are a total of 2,100 hogs at the farms and samples will be collected from 10 pigs at each location, adding that the center has instructed local townships to send local veterinarians to inspect pig farms outside the 5 km alert zone.

Hog farmers in Kinmen County may breath a sigh of relief as 200 hogs on farms in the county tested negative for ASF. An article on the Focus Taiwan Newsa Channel website says that though these test came back negative, authorities will continue to monitor all farms in Kinmen for possible ASF infections. Currently, there are about 11,000 pigs on 68 farms in Kinmen, according to the Council of Agriculture.

The article goes on to say that members of a youth hog association in Taiwan will take to the streets on Jan. 9 to call on the COA to impose a nationwide ban on the use of food waste as pig feed, a practice that is common in Taiwan and could be a major means of spreading the virus.  

In a previous article, Wen says that due to its proximity to China, 200-300 tons of garbage float from the mainland to Kinmen each year. Dead hogs have on occasion been spotted among the garbage, he says, therefore, it is possible the pig carcass found in Jinsha is from China.

In another Focus Taiwan News Channel article, Premier Lai Ching-te calls for the government and private sector to step up efforts to combat ASF, as the risk of the virus spreading from China to Taiwan increases.

Speaking at the second meeting of the Central Emergency Operation Center in case of an outbreak of ASF, Lai says cooperation between the central and local authorities and pig farmers must be further strengthened to prevent the pig epidemic from reaching Taiwan, in light of the second dead pig being found.

The importance of conducting anti-ASF drills across Taiwan is being stressed to accumulate experience in prevention work and dealing with any potential ASF outbreak. Lai has asked the Environmental Protection Administration and Council of Agriculture to deal with the dead pigs and drills in close collaboration with experts, central and local government agencies.

As of Friday morning, according to the article, ASF control centers have been set up in nine cities and counties, with five others ready to do so. Another eight have yet to take action, according to Lai, who has ordered the establishment of such centers across the country before midnight Friday.

In other action to prevent the spread of ASF from infected countries, three travelers were fined on Friday for bringing meat products into Taiwan — two coming from China and one from Hong Kong. Another article from Focus Taiwan News Channel, says a Chinese tourist was found with 45 grams of cooked pig liver and 673 grams of fruit in his carry-on bag upon arrival at Taoyuan International Airport. A Hong Kong passenger was found with 660 grams of sausage and a Taiwanese traveler was found with 800 grams of biscuits containing pork.

Fines for smuggling meat products into Taiwan ranging from NT$200,000 ($6,494 U.S.) to NT$1 million ($32,485 U.S.) for repeat offenders have been imposed since Dec. 18, according to Taipei Customs, but the number of offenders has not dropped.

A Taiwan News article reports that Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen is asking for understanding from the public as a 14-day ban has been placed on the movement of pork products from Kinmen to other parts of Taiwan.

The article says that local businesses are cooperating, willing to remove pork products from their store shelves, even with the poor timing leading into the Lunar New Year, when consumers buy more meat products.

TAGS: Biosecurity
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