TOKYO – Genomes from the African Swine Fever (ASF) virus were found in 1.5 kg of sausages brought by a passenger traveling from Beijing to Shin-Chitose airport in Hokkaido, Japan, the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture reported.

Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said officials confiscated the sausages at the airport on Oct. 1. The country’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has sequenced the virus and the ASF strain was determined to be identical to that identified in China, Poland, Estonia, Russia and Georgia. The virus was isolated, FAS said, and results are expected in the coming weeks.

ASF is transmissible via contaminated animal feed, premises, vehicles, equipment and clothing. Warthogs can be a reservoir for the virus and show no clinical signs of infection. Biting flies and ticks can transmit the disease by taking blood meals from an infected animal and passing on the virus to other susceptible animals. Pigs can become infected through direct contact with infected pigs, and garbage containing unprocessed infected pig meat also are vectors for transmission.

FAS said imports account for nearly half of all pork consumed in Japan. Japan produced 1.3 million metric tons (mt) of pork in 2017 (on a carcass weight equivalent), according to MAFF data. Data published by Global Trade Atlas show that Japan imported 1.1 million mt (product weight equivalent) of fresh, chilled and frozen pork and products with a value of $5.2 billion.

The United States exported 406,816 mt (PWE) of pork and pork products to Japan in 2017. This represents 33 percent of Japan’s total pork and pork product import volume with a value of $1.7 billion.

“MAFF has informed each prefecture’s Animal Health Director of the finding and reminded them to conduct thorough monitoring of any product brought in by international travelers,” FAS said. “Port Animal Health Directors also have been reminded to monitor international product, while Japanese producers of livestock products are further encouraged to avoid international travel to areas where ASF has been detected.”