Sat, Jan 19, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Swine fever demands information

By Yang Yung-nane 楊永年

In response to the African swine fever outbreak in China, the government has launched efforts to prevent it from entering Taiwan. On Jan. 4, then-premier William Lai (賴清德) presided over a second meeting at the Executive Yuan’s Central Emergency Operation Center, urging every local government to set up an emergency response center.

This is the correct approach, and as the threat of the epidemic becomes imminent, the central government and local governments should prepare emergency response measures. Apart from establishing response centers, the government should set policy goals and take complementary measures so that the preventive efforts have the intended effect.

The most straightforward or simplest approach is to enhance the government’s information about the epidemic and disease prevention.

First, upgrading the information is necessary, because the prevention of African swine fever involves expert knowledge not only of the virus’ characteristics, modes of transmission, examination methods and preventive action, but also of other policy issues, such as banning the use of kitchen leftovers as pig feed.

Hog farmers still do not appear to have reached a nationwide consensus on the necessity of a ban. The cost of pig feed is an issue and it remains unclear how to handle the unused kitchen waste. It is not clear to farmers what the government’s main concerns are and which course of action they ought to take.

In short, the question is what complementary measures are needed where hog farmers are allowed to continue using kitchen waste to feed pigs. Where the use of leftovers is banned, hog farmers need to know what other measures they and the government should take to further reduce risk, as experts have suggested that some commercial fodders could also transmit the disease.

Hog farmers and the public need much more information on the disease. While information itself is a top priority, a well-functioning system for the dissemination of that information is equally important, or the information might fail to take hold. Much of the effort to upgrade the provision of information is beyond the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) capabilities.

Second, the channels for the dissemination of information must be upgraded. The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine has created a user-friendly Web site dedicated to African swine fever. Regrettably, the Central Emergency Operation Center’s Web site was not upgraded after Lai presided over the meeting at the center. Now that the Web site links directly to the bureau’s dedicated page, the quality of information has been raised nationally as part of the epidemic prevention policies.

The information system has two purposes: to improve the information and to raise the information level. Improving the information means that epidemic knowledge should be open to cross-disciplinary application and interpretation, while raising the information level means policies across different government departments are connected. The main point is that both these aspects go beyond what the council and the bureau can direct and complete.

Third, the information platform should be upgraded. As soon as the prevention of African swine fever is elevated to a national policy, the information platform should also be elevated to a national-level information platform. So far, most of the information is only laid out on the dedicated bureau Web site.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top