National

Swine fever confirmed in Okinawa for first time in 33 years

JIJI, Kyodo

The agriculture ministry said Wednesday a classical swine fever infection has been confirmed at a pig farm in the prefecture of Okinawa for the first time since the autumn of 1986.

The Okinawa Prefectural Government plans to cull more than 1,800 pigs at the farm in the city of Uruma and at another farm where infection is suspected, in accordance with the law.

In September 2018, the first CSF outbreak in Japan in 26 years was identified at a pig farm in the central city of Gifu. Before the latest outbreak in Okinawa, CSF infections were confirmed in a total of 12 prefectures, mainly in the Chubu and Kanto regions, such as Aichi, Mie and Saitama. The virus is believed to have been transmitted through wild boars.

The ministry will carefully look into infection routes, as it is thought that pigs at the farm in Okinawa may have become infected via different routes to prior cases.

Officials in Okinawa’s pork industry were shocked by the news and expressed fears over the spread of the disease and harmful rumors.

“After the outbreak in Gifu, we strengthened epidemic prevention measures. It is regretful that we are put in such a serious situation,” said Seizo Inamine, 64, chairman of the prefecture’s pig farming promotion council. “We are praying that vaccination will be conducted to prevent further spread of the disease.”

Agriculture minister Taku Eto explained at a meeting held at the ministry to cope with the latest outbreak that the farm raises Agu, an Okinawan breed of pig. “We cannot deny the possibility that this will have a grave impact on Okinawa,” Eto said. “We will make every effort to control the epidemic.”

Pig raising has been conducted widely in Okinawa since the prefecture was independent and known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, from the 15th to the 19th century.

Although business declined sharply during World War II, it had recovered in recent years as the prefecture made efforts to promote Agu pork as a premium brand.

Shipment of pigs reached some 330,000 in fiscal 2018.