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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) that dealt a heavy blow to the domestic pig-farming industry. Now, after more than 20 years of vaccination and other control efforts, Taiwan proper and its outlying island territories of Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu have all been recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health as FMD-free zones where vaccination is practiced. The government took the further step of ending the nationwide vaccination program (with the exception of Kinmen) in July 2018, and Taiwan has not to this day seen a single case of FMD. This concrete success in disease prevention also enabled the country to join the Global Foot-and-Mouth Disease Research Alliance as a collaborator under the name "Taiwan" in August 2019.

Beyond Taiwan's borders, China first saw an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in August of 2018. The disease has since spread throughout China and into surrounding countries and regions. In the face of this alarming epidemic, the government of Taiwan moved quickly to increase preventative warning mechanisms, assist in completing local government preparations, and adopt numerous measures aimed at blocking the disease. Every effort is designed to effectively prevent FMD and ASF infections of pigs within the nation's borders and ensure the ongoing 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 will continue serological testing for viral antibodies of samples collected from the nation's livestock farms and markets.

◆ 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 will be used to track the movement of animals and fresh meat in real time.

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