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Fri, Feb 18, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Officials say FMD under control

CONTAINMENT The latest outbreak of the deadly livestock disease has been limited, despite reports to the contrary, according to authorities

By Erin Prelypchan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A medic from the Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Bureau uses a blowpipe to administer foot-and-mouth vaccines to Formosan Sika deer in Taitung.

PHOTO: CHIU YI-FEIN

Citing the results of tests yesterday, officials at the Council of Agriculture announced that the latest outbreak of deadly foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) has been contained to one farm in Changhua County. The statement came in the face of reports yesterday that claimed the outbreak had spread from a dairy goat farm -- where it forced the slaughter of over 200 animals on Wednesday -- to other farms in the county.

Sung Hua-tsung (宋華聰), deputy director of the council's animal quarantine department, said yesterday that "no trace of the disease" had been found after investigating conditions at two farms in Homei and Shenkang townships.

Earlier yesterday, local agriculture officials rejected reports of the disease spreading as "rumors," but acknowledged that local health authorities were investigating the farms.

Still, officials ordered goat markets in two southern counties to close operations for a week while the checks continue.

Over 200 dairy goats had to be killed at a farm in Changhua's Fanyuan township on Wednesday following the deaths of 22 others from the deadly livestock disease.

This reappearance of FMD -- the first to affect Taiwan's goat population -- follows outbreaks of the disease less than a month ago on cattle farms in Yunlin and Chiayi counties.

Sung said FMD had not spread to any of the 30-odd cattle, hog, goat or deer farms within the 3km quarantined radius around the Fangyuan farm.

The virus does not affect humans, so goat meat and milk are both safe, Sung said.

Animal quarantine department director Li Chin-lung (李金龍) confirmed yesterday that the farm's stock became infected because the farmer, Hung Chi-hsiung (洪吉雄), did not immunize pregnant goats or kids under three months old when he inoculated the rest of his herd in late January.

The COA said yesterday that the O-Kinmen strain of the virus -- the same as the one which struck cattle in last month's outbreak -- was introduced to Taiwan by smuggled animals or meat products from China. It was then brought into Changhua County by someone transporting an infected animal, they said.

Humans are particularly effective transmitters of the virus as they can carry it in their nostrils for seven days, said Sung.

For the second time in a month, the Council has ordered all cloven-hooved animals in Taiwan immunized against FMD.

Council chairman Lin Shiang-nung (林享能) said the immunization efforts will focus on Taiwan's goat population of several hundred thousand.

Over 90 percent of the pig and cattle populations across the nation have already been immunized against the disease, he told reporters yesterday morning.

Only 60 percent of goats and 40 percent of deer have been immunized, making these animals more vulnerable to the disease, Lin said.

The council is also getting tough, however. It said yesterday that farmers whose stock is infected with FMD and who have not immunized their stock may be subject to a fine of NT$50,000.

Meanwhile, the outbreak may seriously affect goat prices and goat products as public fear of the virus sets in.

Goat markets in Kaohsiung and Yunlin counties have been suspended for the next week. They plan to open again on Feb. 24, but may extend their closing time depending on the progress of the outbreak.

The FMD virus inflicted heavy losses on Taiwan's pork industry in March 1997 when more than half of the nation's estimated 7 million pigs were slaughtered.

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