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Healthy hog farming requires vigilance against disease

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In March of 1997, Taiwan experienced a major outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). After 23 years of dedicated effort by the government and people of Taiwan, the World Organisation for Animal Health recognized Taiwan proper and its outlying island territories of Penghu and Matsu as FMD-free zones without vaccination on June 16, 2020. This great achievement for Taiwanese agriculture in the international arena caps the nation's 2019 success in joining the Global Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Alliance as an official collaborator.

Beyond Taiwan's borders, China first saw an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in August of 2018. The disease spread throughout China and has since become established in 12 Asian countries. In East Asia only Taiwan and Japan have blocked the disease. In the face of this alarming epidemic, the government of Taiwan took immediate action, moving quickly to increase preventative warning mechanisms, assisting in completing local government preparations, and adopting numerous measures to deny introduction of the disease. Every effort is designed to effectively prevent FMD and ASF infections within the nation's borders and ensure the sustainable development of animal husbandry in Taiwan.

Key disease prevention measures

◆ Test and confirm the absence of viral activity: To prevent a repeat outbreak of FMD, Taiwan continues to carry out serological testing for viral antibodies in samples collected from the nation's livestock farms and markets. Other measures include testing with sentinel pigs as well as testing of cohabitating cloven-hoofed animals, and increasing the use of FMD vaccine and antigen banks to prevent future outbreaks.

◆ Implement control mechanisms at three key points: First, before cloven-hoofed animals can be transported to market or a slaughterhouse, the owner or manager of the facility from which the animals were sourced must present a certificate of health; second, prior to departure from the point of delivery, vehicles should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected; and third, hygiene inspections at slaughterhouses should be augmented with enhanced veterinary inspection of the animals both before and after slaughter.

◆ Strengthen rolling inspections at ports of entry: At airports and seaports (including fishing ports), items including passenger luggage, shipped online purchases and international postal packages will be subject to strict inspection. One hundred percent of the carry-on bags of passengers arriving from regions at high-risk for ASF—such as China, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam and Cambodia—will be screened by x-ray.

◆ Monitor and sample for viruses: To establish an early warning system, the government will monitor and test samples of such items as illicit or smuggled products, abandoned hog carcasses in Taiwan, dead pigs found floating in bodies of water, and slaughterhouse material.

◆ Instruct farmers on processing kitchen waste or transitioning to pig feed: Hog farmers without high-temperature steam equipment to treat kitchen waste will be advised to switch to commercial pig feed. Those with such equipment will be subject to stepped-up inspections and strict oversight.

◆ Require GPS on vehicles transporting live and butchered hogs: Transportation technology is used to track the movement of animals and fresh meat in real time, thereby entirely eliminating blindspots in the prevention of outbreaks and the spread of ASF.

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