Cattle disease found on Kinmen likely spread from China: COA

07/10/2020 09:31 PM
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Photo courtesy of the Council of Agriculture
Photo courtesy of the Council of Agriculture

Taipei, July 10 (CNA) An infectious and occasionally fatal cattle disease known as lumpy skin disease has been found on Taiwan's outlying island of Kinmen, and is believed to have been spread from China, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said Friday.

Kinmen County officials reported suspected cases of the disease on Wednesday, after cattle on a 548-head livestock research farm developed symptoms including elevated lesions on their skin, Tu Wen-jane (杜文珍), chief of the COA's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said at a press conference.

The affected animals were tested and diagnosed with lumpy skin disease -- the first cases of the mosquito-borne viral disease ever recorded in Taiwan, Tu said.

The virus found in the animals had a genome sequence 99 percent similar to a strain reported in China last year, she added.

COA Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said he had reported the outbreak to Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and would set up an emergency response center to ensure it is contained.

The COA also ordered an immediate freeze on shipments of fresh beef from Kinmen to the island of Taiwan, though the virus does not cause disease in humans, and said it would report the cases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Meanwhile, Kinmen County Government said it had culled 23 cattle at the affected facility on Friday, and was carrying out tests at 47 farms in the vicinity of the outbreak.

Lumpy skin disease has an incubation period of up to 28 days, causes illness in 10-20 percent of infected animals and death in 1-5 percent, Tu said.

In addition to elevated lesions, known as nodules, symptoms include fever and reduced milk production, she said.

According to COA Deputy Minister Huang Chin-cheng (黃金城), lumpy skin disease outbreaks were recorded in 2015-2016 in Saudi Arabia, 2017 in Russia and 2019 in China.

Although China notified the OIE of the disease's presence in Xinjiang last August, it has yet to acknowledge cases in Fujian Province reported by the media in June, Huang said.

Given the proximity of Kinmen to the Fujian coast, the COA believes the virus was likely spread by mosquitoes crossing over from China, Huang said.

In addition to banning beef shipments, Huang said Kinmen authorities would also step up disinfection procedures on all ships and airplanes, to reduce the likelihood of mosquitoes carrying the virus reaching Taiwan proper.

(By Yang Su-min, Huang Huei-min and Matthew Mazzetta)

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