Swine flu spreads in Japan; gov’t warns of ‘extremely serious’ phase

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Japan’s swine fever epidemic is spreading, with local authorities in five central and western prefectures saying Wednesday they are struggling to contain the highly contagious virus that was first reported in September.

“We are facing an extremely serious situation,” farm minister Takamori Yoshikawa told a meeting at his ministry in Tokyo while instructing officials to take thorough countermeasures. The ministry also set up a special task force in Gifu Prefecture to step up containment efforts.

Spreading from farms in Gifu, the hog cholera virus was newly detected by prefectural and local authorities at farms in neighboring Aichi as well as in Osaka, Shiga and Nagano prefectures.

The total number of pigs to be culled at affected farms is expected to reach 15,000.

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