Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Taiwan Opens ASF Center, Raises Fines To Prevent Entry Of Disease


In late August, at a time when African Swine Fever had only shown up in 4 Chinese provinces, the FAO warned that African swine fever (ASF) threatens to spread from China to other Asian countries. In that document the FAO described just how easily ASF can cross borders, and even oceans.

A robust virus with a long life

The ASF virus is very hardy and can survive long periods in very cold and very hot weather, and even in dried or cured pork products. The strain detected in China is similar to one that infected pigs in eastern Russia in 2017 but, so far, and while the investigations continue, the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center has found no conclusive evidence of this latest outbreak's source or linkages.

"The movement of pig products can spread diseases quickly and, as in this case of African Swine Fever, it's likely that the movement of such products, rather than live pigs, has caused the spread of the virus to other parts of China," explained Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinarian.
Since then, ASF has been reported in 18 additional provinces and/or territories of China, and shows no signs of slowing.  
While the Chinese government has blamed this rapid expansion primarily on improper cleaning and disinfection of livestock transport vehicles and the illegal movement of pigs, other suspected vectors include contaminated animal feed, feeding food scraps (`swill') to pigs, and the shipment of contaminated pork products.
China's neighbors have yet to report any outbreaks in pigs, but we've seen multiple reports of the interdiction of ASF contaminated food illegally brought into South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.  A few examples include:

Japan MAFF: ASF Virus Detected In Luggage At Hokkaido Airport

South Korea Detects ASF Gene In Chinese Food Products: Additional Testing Underway

Travelers smuggling raw pork from China to face maximum penalty

In September Taiwan raised the penalty for illegally bringing in raw pork from China to a maximum of NT$15,000 - or about $480 US.  Today, as the risks of importing the virus continue to rise, Taiwan has raised the maximum fine to between NT$10,000 and NT$1 million (aprox. $32,000 US).
This (translated) statement from Taiwan's BAPHIQ (Bureau of Animal Plant Health Inspection & Quarantine).
Starting today to raise the benchmark for layoffs, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Department and the Customs and Excise Department continue to seize passengers entering the country illegally.

The Agriculture, Animal and Plant Epidemic Prevention Bureau (AQSIQ) of the Agriculture Committee said today (18) that the swine fever epidemic in mainland China has continued to spread, and has expanded to 22 provinces/cities/districts, reaching 95 cases, indicating that the epidemic is severe.
In order to prevent the invasion of the African swine fever epidemic, the Anti-inspection Bureau continued to cooperate with the Customs and Excise Department to strengthen inspections of passenger baggage with a higher risk of influx of pigs in Africa.
The Anti-Inspection Bureau said that the amendment to Article 45 of the Animal Infectious Diseases Prevention and Control Ordinance has been in force since the 14th. The penalty for the entry of illegally carried animal products by passengers has been increased to a fine of NT$10,000 to NT$1 million.
According to statistics, there were 53 cases of punishment from the 14th to the 17th, including 18 pieces of 50,000 yuan (17 in mainland China, 1 in Hungary) and 33 pieces in 30,000 yuan (12 in mainland China, 14 in Vietnam, Thailand, There are 2 in Indonesia and Malaysia, 1 in Myanmar, 2 in 10,000 (one in mainland China and one in Japan), and there are still many people from mainland China and Vietnam.
The AFB added that the decision on the 14th announcement should be raised against the outside world. The bureau has announced that the benchmark will be revised again on the 18th. If the passengers have illegally carried pork products in the country within three years, The entry was seized. The first penalty was raised from 50,000 yuan to 200,000 yuan. The second violation was directly imposed for 1 million yuan. I hope that I can deter people who are lucky.
According to statistics, from 0:00 to 4:00 pm on the 18th, 2 airports in the country and ports (including the small three links) were found to have a fine of 200,000 yuan, one from China's mainland pork and one ham, and other cases were decided. 4 of them were fined 30,000 yuan, and the above 6 were seized at Taoyuan Airport; other airports and ports did not seize the case. The Anti-Inspection Bureau once again reminded that the penalties for passengers carrying illegal animal products have increased a lot. People should not try their own methods.

You'll find an English language report from today's Taipai Times at the link below:
Swine flu center to open, fines rise 
LANGUAGE ISSUE?A COA official said  that despite data showing mostly Taiwanese had been fined, many of them were Vietnamese or Chinese with ROC passports

By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter
Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng at a news conference in Taipei yesterday holds a board showing fines for illegally importing pork products from African swine fever-affected areas.

A central emergency operation center to oversee efforts to prevent African swine fever contagion is to open today, while fines for people caught illegally importing pork products from virus-affected areas have been increased, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said yesterday.

As most Chinese provinces have reported cases and illegal imports of Chinese meat products continue to be intercepted by customs agents, the government will step up prevention measures, the council said.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) and other officials are to attend the center’s first meeting today, COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城) said.

Lai would also attend a nationwide drill simulating an outbreak, which was originally scheduled for Friday, but was postponed to Wednesday next week, Huang said.

(Continue . . . . )

While ASF does not pose a direct threat to human health, it can be devastating to pork producers, and its further spread in Asia could compromise already fragile food security in many regions

According to the FAO's most recent report, food insecurity and world hunger continue to increase, making agricultural diseases such as ASF, avian flu, FMD, and others important detriments to human health as well.

The 2018 State Of Food Security And Nutrition In The World



  • New evidence continues to point to a rise in world hunger in recent years after a prolonged decline. An estimated 821 million people – approximately one out of every nine people in the world – are undernourished.
  • Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America, whereas the undernourishment situation is stable in most regions of Asia.
  • The signs of increasing hunger and food insecurity are a warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we “leave no one behind” on the road towards a world with zero hunger.
All of which make the progress of ASF around the world very much worth tracking.

China MOA: Chongqing Reports 2nd ASF Outbreak


Roughly 6 weeks ago Chongqing - one of 4 large municipalities under the direct control of the Central Chinese government (the others are Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin) - reported their first outbreak of African Swine Fever.
Chongqing is bordered by 5 provinces (Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guizhou, Hubei, and Hunan,) which have all reported multiple ASF outbreaks, and so it is not terribly surprising that today Chongqing reports their second outbreak.
This from China's MOA:
African swine fever epidemic in Laoshan District, Chongqing
Date: 2018-12-18 19:33 Author: Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Press Office

The Information Office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs was released on December 18, and the African swine fever epidemic was detected in the Laoshan District of Chongqing.

At 15:00 on December 18, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs received a report from the China Center for Animal Disease Control and Prevention. It was diagnosed by the China Center for Animal Health and Epidemiology (National Center for Animal Disease Research), and African piglets occurred in a farmer in Laoshan District, Chongqing. epidemic. Up to now, the farmer has 23 pigs, 8 diseases and 3 deaths.

Immediately after the outbreak, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sent a steering group to the local area. The local government has started the emergency response mechanism as required, and adopted measures such as blockade, culling, harmless treatment, disinfection, etc., to treat all the sick and culled pigs harmlessly. At the same time, all pigs and their products are prohibited from being transferred out of the blockade, and pigs are prohibited from being transported into the blockade. At present, the above measures have been implemented.

CDC Adds 7 AFM Cases (Ttl=165)


Although the number of new and suspected AFM cases continues to slow
 in the most recent reporting period - a hopeful sign that we are now past this year's peak - the CDC added 7 new confirmed Acute Flaccid Myelitis cases this past week, and 9 new PUIs (patients under investigation). 

While the precise cause of these polio-like outbreaks remain a mystery, a number of enteroviruses (EV-71, EV-D68, etc.) are high on the suspect list. The CDC notes, however, that most cases have tested negative for any virus.
Paralysis - while exceedingly rare - can appear days or even weeks following a suspected viral infection, which may help explain the lack of positive lab tests. 
It is also possible that this paralysis is due to some sort of autoimmune response to more than one virus,  or even that some unknown virus - not currently picked up by testing - is at work.

Some snippets from this week's surveillance update:
AFM Investigation

 What CDC has learned since 2014

  • Most of the patients with AFM (more than 90%) had a mild respiratory illness or fever consistent with a viral infection before they developed AFM.
    • Viral infections such as from enteroviruses are common, especially in children, and most people recover. We don’t know why a small number of people develop AFM, while most others recover. We are continuing to investigate this.
  • These AFM cases are not caused by poliovirus; all the stool specimens from AFM patients that we received tested negative for poliovirus.
  • We detected coxsackievirus A16, EV-A71, and EV-D68 in the spinal fluid of four of 458 confirmed cases of AFM since 2014, which points to the cause of their AFM. For all other patients, no pathogen (germ) has been detected in their spinal fluid to confirm a cause.
  • Most patients had onset of AFM between August and October, with increases in AFM cases every two years since 2014. At this same time of year, many viruses commonly circulate, including enteroviruses, and will be temporally associated with AFM.
  • Most AFM cases are children (over 90%) and have occurred in 46 states and DC 

     AFM Cases in the U.S.
So far in 2018, there are 165 confirmed cases of AFM in 36 states. These 165 confirmed cases are among the total of 320 reports that CDC received of patients under investigation (PUIs). CDC and state and local health departments are still investigating some of these PUIs.
  • In 2017, CDC received information for 35 confirmed cases of AFM in 16 states.
  • In 2016, CDC received information for 149 confirmed cases of AFM in 39 states and DC.
  • In 2015, CDC received information for 22 confirmed cases of AFM in 17 states.
  • From August to December 2014, CDC received information for 120 people confirmed cases of AFM in 34 states.
The case counts represent only those cases for which information has been sent to and confirmed by CDC.

Poliovirus and West Nile virus may sometimes lead to AFM.
You can protect yourself and your children from poliovirus by getting vaccinated.
You can protect against bites from mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile virus, by using mosquito repellent, staying indoors at dusk and dawn (when bites are more common), and removing standing or stagnant water near your home (where mosquitoes can breed).
While we don’t know if it is effective in preventing AFM, washing your hands often with soap and water is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germ to other people. Learn about when and how to wash your hands.
For more information on what CDC is doing, see our AFM Investigation page.
A few recent studies on the possible causes of AFM include:

mBio: Contemporary EV-D68 Strains Have Acquired The Ability To Infect Human Neuronal Cells

Notes from the Field: Enterovirus A71 Neurologic Disease in Children — Colorado, 2018

Eurosurveillance Review: Association Between Acute Flaccid Myelitis (AFM) & Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68)

Monday, December 17, 2018

J. Envir. Health: Link Between Public Transport Use & Airborne Transmission Of Infectious Disease



The ways that influenza can be transmitted have been pretty well described (direct contact, airborne large-droplets, airborne small aerosols & fomites), but the relative risks of becoming infected by each mode undoubtedly varies by environments and scenarios. 
What is generally accepted, however, is the more people you cram into a confined space (bus, train, plane, classroom, etc.), the higher the risks of transmission.
During a pandemic, the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) - such as school closures or social distancing - will be critical to help limit transmission (see Community Pandemic Mitigation's Primary Goal : Flattening The Curve).

In the past we've looked at some of the assumed higher risk settings for flu transmission, including:
Study: Simulated Influenza A Transmission In An Office Environment

Hong Kong Closes Schools, Calls For Stringent NPIs To Combat Flu
ICAAC Video: How Quickly A Virus Can Spread In A Building

BMJ: Flu Transmission Risks On Airplanes
In 2008, we looked at Japan's testing of Social Distancing On Commuter Trains during a severe pandemic, and in 2011's Viruses With A Ticket To Ride, we looked at a study that appeared in BMC Infectious Diseases, that looked at the incidence of ARI (Acute Respiratory Infection) presenting within 5 days of train or tram travel in the UK.
They found that recent  bus  or  tram  use  within  five  days  of  symptom  onset  was  associated  with  an  almost  six-fold  increased  risk  of  consulting  for  ARI.
All of which brings us to a new research article, published in Environmental Health, that - using some pretty heavy statistical analysis that are well above my pay grade -  suggests a link between travel on the London Underground and the spread of respiratory infections.

Analysing the link between public transport use and airborne transmission: mobility and contagion in the London underground

Lara Goscé Email author and  Anders Johansson
Environmental Health201817:84


© The Author(s) 2018



The transmission of infectious diseases is dependent on the amount and nature of contacts between infectious and healthy individuals. Confined and crowded environments that people visit in their day-to-day life (such as town squares, business districts, transport hubs, etc) can act as hot-spots for spreading disease. In this study we explore the link between the use of public transport and the spread of airborne infections in urban environments.


We study a large number of journeys on the London Underground, which is known to be particularly crowded at certain times. We use publically available Oyster card data (the electronic ticket used for public transport in Greater London), to infer passengers’ routes on the underground network. In order to estimate the spread of a generic airborne disease in each station, we use and extend an analytical microscopic model that was initially designed to study people moving in a corridor.


Comparing our results with influenza-like illnesses (ILI) data collected by Public Health England (PHE) in London boroughs, shows a correlation between the use of public transport and the spread of ILI. Specifically, we show that passengers departing from boroughs with higher ILI rates have higher number of contacts when travelling on the underground. Moreover, by comparing our results with other demographic key factors, we are able to discuss the role that the Underground plays in the spread of airborne infections in the English capital.


Our study suggests a link between public transport use and infectious diseases transmission and encourages further research into that area. Results could be used to inform the development of non-pharmacological interventions that can act on preventing instead of curing infections and are, potentially, more cost-effective.
        (Continue . . . )

 The University of Bristol has provided an accompanying press release:

Public Release: 

Tube travel linked to the spread of flu-like illnesses

University of Bristol

Despite the commuter cold being a widely accepted concept, it has never been proven that public transport contributes to the spread of airborne infections. Now new research on the London underground commute has proven a link does exist.

The study, published on December 4, 2018 in Environmental Health, will help to inform measures to control the spread of infectious disease.

By comparing Oyster card route information and Public Health England data on flu-like illnesses, Dr Lara Goscé from the University of Bristol's Department of Civil Engineering and Dr Anders Johansson from Bristol's Department of Engineering Mathematics, discovered higher rates of airborne infections in Londoners that have longer tube journeys through busier terminals.

Dr Goscé explained: "Higher rates [of influenza-like cases] can be observed in boroughs served by a small number of underground lines: passengers starting their journey in these boroughs usually have to change lines once or more in crowded junctions such as King's Cross in order to reach their final destination.
"On the other hand, lower influenza-like rates are found in boroughs where either the population do not use public transport as the main form of transport to commute to work; or boroughs served by more underground lines, which guarantee faster trips with less stops and contacts with fewer people."

For instance, one finding highlighted that infection rates in residents of Islington, who often change lines at crowded Kings Cross St. Pancreas, were nearly three times higher than in commuters from Kensington, who mostly take direct trains.

The team hopes that their findings will inform Government epidemic policies. Dr Goscé said: "Policy makers, in particular, should address the role potentially played by public transport and crowded events and avoid encouraging the attendance of such environments during epidemics."

Looking to the future, the group want to draw a clearer map of the spread of cold-like infections in a metropolitan environment, and so plan to combine individual level infection data with existing studies from households and schools. 

Dr Goscé said: "These results are preliminary following limitations of the dataset. Empirical studies. Empirical studies combining aero-biology and pedestrian modelling would be important in improving model fidelity and devising non-pharmaceutical control strategies tackling threshold densities to minimise numbers of infections and optimal ventilation in different crowded environments."

While I know some people who believe they'll simply hunker down at home during a pandemic in order to avoid exposure, it's neither practical or desirable to simply shut everything down and try to wait out what could be a year (or longer) event. 
Very few are equipped to do so, and besides, someone has to keep the lights on, deliver the food, refine the fuel, police the streets, take care of the sick and injured . . . and do the thousands of other things that hold society together.
Like it or not, we'll have to find ways to live and work as safely as possible during a pandemic. Else infection with the virus could quickly become the least of our problems.

Japan: Gifu Prefecture Reports A 5th Farm Outbreak Of Classical Swine Fever

Gifu Prefecture - Credit Wikipedia


While China deals with African Swine Fever (ASF), since last September - and for the first time in 26 years - Japan has been dealing with outbreaks of Classical Swine Fever (CSF) in Gifu Prefecture (see Japan: MAFF Confirms Classical Swine Fever Outbreak).
While often clinically indistinguishable from African Swine Fever (ASF), Classical Swine Fever is caused by a different virus (genus Pestivirus, family Flaviviridae).
Both pig diseases are highly contagious, and can be economically devastating for pork producers, although CSF tends to produce much lower mortality in pigs. Unlike with ASF, there is a vaccine for Classical Swine Fever.

Twelve days ago Japan reported the virus at A Gifu Livestock Research Institute, followed 7 days ago another wild boar breeding facility in Gifu - about 12 miles distance from previous outbreak.

Today, the Gifu Livestock Research facility which was the site of the December 5th report has reported another outbreak.

Confirmation of slaughter of swine fever in Gifu prefecture (fifth example)

December 15, Heisei 30
Ministry of Agriculture

Today, the slaughter of swine fever was confirmed at Gifu Prefectural Agricultural University College (Kani City, Gifu Prefecture).

We will make every effort to prevent epidemic measures of the disease.
The facility does not move pigs at least since Saturday, September 1.
Please cooperate so that we can refrain from scrutinizing the interview in the field, as it may cause spread of the disease.
1. Outline of the occurrence facility
Location: Kanji, Gifu Prefecture
Facility overview: Gifu Prefectural Gifu Prefectural Agricultural University (located in the restricted area of ​​Gifu prefectural animal husbandry research institution (3rd example))
Feeding situation: 7 fattening pigs, 3 breeding pigs
2. Background
(1) Gifu Prefecture conducted a regular inspection of the Gifu Prefectural Agricultural University School on the occurrence of the third case on Friday, December 14, and got a result suspected of hog cholera.
(2) Therefore, on December 15 (Saturday), Gifu Prefecture carried out on-site inspection of the facility again and conducted precision examination in Gifu prefecture and agricultural institution animal health research department, I confirmed that it is a slaughtered animal.
3. Future response
Based on "Specific Animal Infectious Disease Control Guidelines on Hog ​​Cholera", we will take all possible measures against the following epidemic measures.
(1) We will promptly and precisely implement the necessary epidemic measures such as slaughtering of fodder pigs at the facility, burial burialization, setting of migration restricted areas, etc.
(2) We will promptly check the occurrence status of the farm within the movement restricted area.
(3) In order to prevent the spread of infection, we will strengthen disinfection around the outbreak facility and establish a disinfection point on the main road.
(4) We will send a national epidemiological survey team to investigate the infection route etc.
(5) We will aim for the early detection and early notification of the disease.
(6) We will strive to provide accurate information to producers, consumers, distributors, etc. while trying to fully collaborate with related ministries and agencies.
(7) We will thoroughly give guidance on compliance with feeding hygiene management standards such as disinfection of farms and prevention of intrusion of wild animals to farms.
(8) Investigate and investigate all possible possibilities to investigate the infection route etc. and prevent it from spreading.
4. Other
(1) Hog cholera is a disease of pigs and wild boars, and it does not infect people. Also, the meat of infected pigs never goes on the market.
(2) The facility has not moved pigs since at least September 1 (Saturday).
(3) Thank you for your cooperation so that you can refrain from scrutinizing the interview in the field as it may cause spread of the disease.
(4) Since we will make efforts to provide information promptly and accurately, cooperation is requested so that stakeholders and consumers, such as producers, will not be confused by unfounded rumors.

Outbreaks of CSF at two agricultural research facilities are a reminder of how difficult this virus is to control, even in places where a high level of biosecurity would normally be expected.

Last September the OIE withdrew/suspended Japan's hard won status as being free of Classical Swine Fever (see OIE Statement), leaving only 34 countries with that coveted designation. 


Sunday, December 16, 2018

China MOA: ASF Outbreaks In Sichuan & Heilongjiang Province


Sichuan Province, which reported its first outbreak of African Swine Fever a month ago, continues to be a hot spot of activity, and the Chinese MOA reports the second report from Heilongjiang Province in the past two weeks.

African swine fever epidemic occurred in Yanting County of Sichuan Province and Jiguan District of Jixi City, Heilongjiang Province
Date: 2018-12-16 21:23 Author: Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Press Office [Font Size: Big Middle Small】 Print

The Information Office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs was released on December 16th, and the African swine fever epidemic occurred in Yanting County, Mianyang City, Sichuan Province and Jiguan District, Jixi City, Heilongjiang Province.

At 14:00 on December 16, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs received a report from the China Center for Animal Disease Control and Prevention, and was diagnosed by the China Center for Animal Health and Epidemiology (National Center for Animal Disease Research), and a farmer in Yanting County, Mianyang City, Sichuan Province. 

Out of the African swine fever epidemic situation, a pig swine outbreak occurred in a farmer in Jiguan District, Jixi City, Heilongjiang Province. Up to now, there are 210 live pigs in Yanting County, with 35 heads and 26 deaths. The chickens in the Jiguan District have 84 pigs, 24 diseases and 24 deaths.

Immediately after the outbreak, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sent a steering group to the local area. The local government has started the emergency response mechanism as required, and adopted measures such as blockade, culling, harmless treatment, disinfection, etc., to treat all the sick and culled pigs harmlessly. At the same time, all pigs and their products are prohibited from being transferred out of the blockade, and pigs are prohibited from being transported into the blockade. At present, the above measures have been implemented.

While ASF does not pose a direct threat to human health, it can be devastating to pork producers, and China is both the largest consumer and producer of pork in the world.

Although reports remain widely scattered across much of the eastern half of China, the uncontrolled spread of the virus could seriously disrupt that country's economy and impact food security in an already stressed region of the world.