Photo/IllutrationAn active virus capable of transmitting African swine fever was found in homemade sausages. (Provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)

Active viruses capable of transmitting African swine fever (ASF) were found in Japan for the first time in meat products carried by passengers from China, the agriculture ministry said on April 2.

A man and a woman arrived at Chubu Airport in Aichi Prefecture on separate flights from China in January. Asked by an agent about the pork sausages in their possession, both said the meat was “a souvenir,” according to the ministry.

The passengers voluntarily surrendered the sausages.

Under the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law, individuals are not allowed to bring most meat products into Japan.

The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) tested the meat and confirmed the existence of active ASF viruses capable of spreading the disease among domestic animals.

People who eat the meat of infected pigs are not affected. But without vaccination or treatment available, the ASF is highly lethal to infected pigs. The disease also affects boars.

The first ASF outbreak in Asia was confirmed in China last summer. It has since spread to Mongolia and Vietnam.

In light of the incident at Chubu Airport, the agriculture ministry plans to strengthen measures to prevent meat products from being brought into the country illegally.

Starting on April 22, it will reinforce punishment against violators by issuing warning letters and notifying police about serious offenses.

A viral disease known as swine cholera has been spreading in Gifu and Aichi prefectures since the first outbreak in Japan in 26 years was confirmed in September 2018.

The ASF is a different type of infectious disease.