Eighteen pigs on a farm in Changhua County were culled late on Monday after they developed symptoms of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), an official confirmed yesterday.
Kuo Chou-tseh (郭丑哲), head of the county’s Bureau of Animal Health Inspection and Quarantine, said the 18 pigs were killed on the farm immediately after a veterinarian at the Changhua meat market discovered on Monday that 10 out of 50 pigs sent to the market by the farm appeared to have FMD symptoms.
A total of 947 pigs were being raised on the farm, Kuo added.
Kuo said seven other pig farms within a 1km radius of the farm were disinfected later on Monday in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, and vaccinations were also given to about 5,000 pigs being raised in the neighborhood.
Officials of the Council of Agriculture’s (COA) Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said there are about 12,000 hog farms in Taiwan, and 90 percent of their stock had not received an FMD inoculation.
Monday’s report was the fourth of its kind since February, following the first case reported in Yunlin County on Feb. 4, a second reported in Changhua County on Feb. 9 and a third in Chiayi County on March 27, COA officials said.
They urged the public not to panic over the development, describing the appearance of sporadic cases as normal in the process of gradually reducing inoculations to eradicate the disease.
Under guidelines set by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Taiwan may apply for status as an FMD-free country before next year’s annual meeting in May if no more cases are reported and no vaccinations are given to livestock for one year before applying for FMD-free status, the COA said.
Once a country reports an FMD outbreak, it can take up to 40 years before it can be listed as FMD-free, as has been the case in some European countries, COA officials said.
The percentage of pigs in Taiwan that have received FMD vaccinations has dropped from 50 percent in November to less than 10 percent at present, moving toward a zero injection rate to meet OIE requirements, COA officials said.
After the first FMD case was reported in Taiwan on March 20, 1997, Taiwan has been trying to stamp out the disease as quickly as possible, they said.
Since then, all pig farms and slaughterhouses around the country have continuously conducted disinfections to keep the virus at bay.
Taiwan used to raise as many as 12 million pigs per year in peak years, with 7 million exported to Japan annually, COA officials said. Taiwan now raises only about 6.4 million pigs a year, mainly for local consumption, the officials said.