TOKYO, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Farm Minister Taku Eto said Friday that pigs will be vaccinated to try and deal with hog cholera epidemic that began in September 2018, but has yet to be comprehensively eradicated.
The epidemic, thus far, has seen more than 130,000 pigs culled in a year, Eto said.
Japan had previously been wary about vaccinating pigs due to the negative impact on its pork product export markets, but in a change in policy, the farm ministry now intends to not just vaccinate pigs, but also urge pharmaceutical companies to increase their output of the vaccines.
"We'd like to secure as many vaccines as possible," Eto said.
Japan's top government spokesperson meanwhile conceded the epidemic was a serious one and needed to be dealt with swiftly.
"We are aware that Japan now faces a significant phase in coping with the epidemic and will endeavor to promptly address the issue, including how to respond to the possible impact on exports," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
No infections of pig cholera have been recorded in Japan since the first outbreak in 1992 and the virus was declared eradicated in 2007, according to official records.
But swine flu, which is also known as hog cholera, was first detected on farms in Gifu Prefecture in September last year, but has been newly detected in pigs at farms in Aichi, Mie, Fukui, Saitama and Nagano prefectures across Japan.
A vaccine that could have countered the hog cholera epidemic at that time and bring it under control was snubbed by the government, with Yasuhiro Ozato, then senior vice farm minister, expressing concern about using the vaccine.
The government at the time advocated for raising hygiene standards, as there was concern that using the vaccine would hinder Japan from regaining its World Organization for Animal Health status and being able to expand its pork exports.
Japan at that time also feared that if the vaccines were used, it would fail to regain its status as a Classic Swine Fever (CSF) free country, which would severely hamper the nation's pork industry.
The number of pigs in farms stands at around 700,000 across the six virus-detected prefectures.