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China Put into Use New Vaccine Against Blue-ear Pig Disease

China on Wednesday formally put into use a new-type vaccine specially targeting a highly pathogenic blue-ear pig disease that has been haunting Chinese pig farmers for months, said the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).

The first batch of the new vaccines went off the production lines of two companies in Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces on Wednesday, according to an MOA official.

They are to be dispatched to disease-hit regions and major pig raising areas, said the official.

The vaccines will be offered to pig farmers free of charge, as the government has already allocated 280 million yuan (US$36.5 million) to fund the vaccination.

Chinese veterinary officials earlier said they were confident of ending outbreak of the deadly pig disease with the new vaccine.

China first spotted a more virulent form of the blue-ear pig disease in the summer of 2006. In January of this year, researchers concluded that it was caused by a mutated, highly pathogenic variant of the original virus causing the blue-ear disease -- officially named porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

The mutated virus caused higher mortality rates, according to Jia Youling, the country's chief veterinarian.

China successfully developed a vaccine for the new variant and approved 12 companies to produce the vaccine in May.

The output of the new vaccine would total 70 million milliliters in June, 154 million milliliters in July and 189 million milliliters in August, according to the production schedule.

The Ministry of Agriculture hopes a mass immunization of pigs will be completed as early as possible as high summer temperatures and humidity could help spread the outbreak of blue ear pig disease.

The highly pathogenic disease has killed 18,597 pigs and forced another 5,778 pigs to be culled in China.

(Xinhua News Agency June 14, 2007)

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