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2020-07-14 05:47:50

China on Monday warned of an outbreak of highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) among pigs in the southern Guangdong province.

The outbreak was detected in Leizhou, a county administered by the coastal city of Zhanjiang. Out of a herd of 131 pigs, 39 had become infected with the viral disease, resulting in the death of one animal, according to a notice Monday from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs that cited Guangdong’s animal disease control center.

“Local authorities are dealing with the outbreak in accordance with disease control and prevention regulations,” the ministry’s veterinary and animal husbandry bureau said.

A staff member at the Guangdong animal disease control center told Sixth Tone that a spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

FMD is “the most contagious of all infectious diseases in animals,” according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Symptoms in infected animals include fever and blister-like sores in the mouth, between the hooves, and elsewhere. FMD is rare and not particularly serious in humans, but it can reduce productivity in livestock and disrupt international trade.

In China, FMD is classified as an A-list disease — one that can cause serious harm and requires an urgent response. While the mortality rate in adult livestock is just 10%, it poses a greater risk to young animals, and can cause severe weight loss as well as decreased milk production and fur growth, according to China’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

China’s agriculture sector is still recovering from African swine fever, which decimated domestic pig herds after it was first detected in August 2018. To stop the disease from spreading, the central government approved a plan to cull 1 million pigs nationwide, though the total number killed over the past two years is believed to be much higher.

Zhang Guihong, a professor at South China Agricultural University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, told animal husbandry platform Xinmu Net last year that controlling a possible FMD outbreak in China would be challenging, given its various modes of transmission — via droplets, dust, and air — and high mutation rate.

“There were 27 foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in 2018, the most in nearly 13 years,” Zhang said. “The risk of infection (from foot-and-mouth disease) still seriously threatens our pig farms.”

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Pigs on a farm in Lu’an, Anhui province, Dec. 3, 2019. People Visual)