China’s poor handling of the African swine fever crisis is evidence of the dangers of close cross-strait ties, National Taiwan University professor of veterinary studies Lai Shiow-suey (賴秀穗) said.
Taiwan has stepped up customs inspections at ports of entry in light of an outbreak that has been reported in 23 areas in China, which international media reports say has seen about 600,000 pigs culled since August.
Lai, 77, has been widely praised for his work to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease and the avian flu in Taiwan.
Photo: Ashley Chiu, Taipei Times
In an interview with the Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times), Lai said that China failed to isolate and slaughter pigs infected with the disease, instead using them to make processed pork products.
The result was that African swine fever, which had not been a problem in Asia for 97 years, is spreading in epidemic proportions, he said.
If Taiwan and China were to grow too close politically, it might be impossible to stop diseases like this from spreading throughout the nation, he said.
In Europe, when the disease occurs, it spreads 100km in a year, but in China it has already spread over a 1,000km radius in just five months, he said.
In China, veterinarians are powerless to combat infectious diseases, whereas in Taiwan the government listens to the advice of veterinarians to enact policy, he said.
While the Chinese government has reported the eradication of several hundred infected pigs that were being raised on private property, there have so far been no reports of infections at commercial farms, Lai said.
However, as China lost control of the disease’s early spread, it is inevitable that commercial farms would have been affected, he said.
“Commercial farms in China each raise several hundred thousand pigs — maybe up to 1 million. Do you think they would slaughter that many pigs in one go? Impossible,” he said.
China likely only reported a small number of infections, but it is highly likely that 100 million of China’s roughly 430 million pigs are infected by now, he said.
The economic impact on China is likely to reach several trillion yua, he said, adding that it will be difficult to raise pigs in China from now on.
By sending infected pigs to butchers to be processed, Chinese farmers contributed to the spread in two ways: first by transporting infected pigs, thereby exposing more animals to infection, and second by allowing infected pork to enter the food chain.
“What is most scary is that Europe has been unable to eradicate the disease after 61 years, and each country there has at most several million pigs. China will not get rid of the infection even in 100 years,” he said.
Due to the US-China trade dispute, China stopped importing US pork and instead imported several million tonnes of pork from Russia, which has African swine fever, he said.
Lab tests on the virus from pigs in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, showed that it was the same strain as found in Russia and Poland, he said.
Taiwan must be cautious, as the virus is likely to spread throughout Southeast Asia over the next year or two, he said.
Farmers especially must report the disease if they find it and must not send infected pigs to be slaughtered, he said.
A Taipei veterinarian is urging pet owners to avoid using insecticides around their homes, as their ingredients can be toxic to pets. Commercial-grade insecticides contain pyrethroids — organic compounds similar to natural pyrethrins, pesticides produced by flowers such as chrysanthemums — in quantities that are harmless to humans, but potentially fatal to cats and dogs, Asian Veterinary Specialist Referral Center veterinarian Chua Man-ling (蔡曼琳) said. Even in small quantities, pyrethroids are hazardous to cats, as they lack the metabolic enzymes needed to process them, Chua said. Cockroach sprays and ant traps are especially dangerous to pets as they contain boric acid, she
DOING ENOUGH? The HPA budgets NT$1.3 billion to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but has no separate budget to fight teen drinking, a doctor said The government should step up alcohol education and prevention efforts, and allocate more of the budget to it, doctors said on Friday, citing the high consumption of alcohol among Taiwanese adolescents. One out of four 12-to-17-year-olds has consumed alcohol, said Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海), director of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Clinical Toxicology. The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) budgets NT$1.3 billion (US$43.9 million) annually to prevent the health hazards of tobacco, but it has not allocated a separate budget for preventing teenage drinking or excessive alcohol use, Yen said. “There is no so-called ‘safe drinking level’ for minors,” because any amount consumed
The Fancy Frontier manga and anime expo held in Taipei over the weekend has sparked controversy, after a participant allegedly contravened the Act on Offenses Against Sexual Morality (妨害風化罪) by publicly exposing her private parts during a photo shoot. The two-day event opened at the Expo Dome at the Taipei Expo Park on Saturday, attracting numerous comic and anime creators, cosplayers, photographers and fans. Allegedly, a female cosplayer who was not wearing any underwear lifted up her skirt and revealed her private parts at an outdoor photography area near the venue. Event organizers said yesterday that to prevent indecent exposure, they have since
DREAMING OF TRAVEL: About 7,000 people applied for the experience, with about 60 chosen for the first flight yesterday, which includes boarding an airplane Starved of the travel experience during COVID-19? Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) has the solution — a fake itinerary where you check in, go through passport control and security, and even board the aircraft. You just never leave. The airport yesterday began offering travelers the chance to do just that, with about 60 people eager to get going, albeit to nowhere. About 7,000 people applied to take part, with the winners chosen by random. More fake flight experiences are to take place in the coming weeks. “I really want to leave the country, but because of the pandemic, lots of flights cannot fly,”