The Japanese government is ordering a clamp down on the deadly Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus a highly contagious pig disease that easily kills young piglets whose effects are now being felt in the increasing number of cases within the country. Since the virus was detected in October 2013 – the first time in seven years within Japan – the virus has already spread to 18 of Japan’s prefectures, killing over 39,000 piglets as of April 2. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has already laid down strict instructions on hygiene controls and disinfection of farms to keep the virus from spreading.
This time, the virus has already spread to a wider percentage of the country compared to the 1996 outbreak. The PED virus spreads orally, when piglets ingest substances that are infected by the virus. Pigs that pass a certain age can contract the virus but are able to recover with medical help. Suckling piglets 10 days old or younger however have a high fatality rate if infected by the virus. The virus does not infect humans.
A PED outbreak also occurred in Japan in 1996, killing a total of around 39,500 pigs among the over 80,000 that contracted the virus in nine prefectures. An outbreak of the same virus occurred in the United States and South Korea last year. The strain of the virus identified in the current outbreak in Japan is similar to those found in the U.S. and South Korea, experts say.
“It is expanding more widely than the outbreaks between 1994 and 1996 and between 1982 and 1983,” Masuo Sueyoshi, professor of veterinary hygiene at the University of Miyazaki, said. “If vaccines run short, the outbreak is expected to spread further,” he added. Kenji Murakami, professor of microbiology at Iwate University, said, “The virus is highly capable of propagating, and even if only one pig develops the disease, the virus could easily spread instantly within a farm via animal waste.”