FAST FACTS: What is African swine fever?

MANILA, Philippines– The Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that African swine fever (ASF) has caused deaths of hundreds of pigs in several areas in the country.

What are its effects and how will the disease affect the local hog industry?

What is African swine fever?

According to the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that affects pigs, warthogs, and boars. 

It causes pigs to have high fever and lose their appetite. It also causes hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs.

Death is certain. Pigs die in a span of 2 to 10 days upon affliction.

There is no known vaccine against ASF yet.

Which areas are affected?

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said 7 areas in two provinces in Luzon have been affected by ASF. These are:

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, ASF has severely affected China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, some areas in South Korea, Laos, and Myanmar.

ASF outbreaks have been detected in 32 provinces in China. Almost 1.2 million pigs there have been culled in an effort to halt the further spread of the disease.

Can humans get sick?

No. The NMIS said ASF is not considered as a human health threat. 

However, humans can become carriers of the virus once tainted pork is ingested or if people get close to the infected meat.

The virus can also survive even if the meat has been processed or canned.

Dar suspects that the virus may have been brought by some overseas Filipinos who came from ASF-affected countries.

What has the government done?

Prior to the public announcement that ASF has caused hog deaths, the Philippine government sent tissue samples to laboratories in the United Kingdom to determine the cause of death of the pigs. While tests have confirmed that it was indeed ASF that caused the deaths, the particular strand of the virus has yet to be determined. 

The government said it has enforced the "1-7-10 Protocol" in the affected areas.

Quarantine checkpoints are set up in areas within a 1-kilometer radius of farms possibly having cases of ASF. All pigs within the area are also culled.

Dar said over 7,400 pigs have been culled in the affected areas.

Within a 7-kilometer radius, authorities conduct surveillance and limit any animal movement.

Meanwhile, farm owners within a 10-kilometer radius are required to report if they have pigs showing signs of the disease.

According to Dar, the government has "successfully managed the issue."

"We are pleased to report that we have already suspended the ground operations in Rizal and will now focus on cleaning and disinfection operations," the DA said.

The government has also banned pork imports from ASF-affected countries.

What is the potential impact?

The disease threatens the P260-billion swine industry in the country. The industry provides livelihood for millions of Filipino families, as small backyard raisers comprise roughly two-thirds or 65% of the industry.

The Philippines currently has 12 million hogs in its inventory.

The DA said it has set aside P82 million to prevent the further spread of ASF. The amount includes P3,000 in financial aid for each affected hog raiser.

What can the public do?

For swine raisers, the DA reminds them to enhance biosecurity measures and promptly report any unusual animal deaths in their respective farms.

Swill feeding or feeding food scraps to pigs is highly discouraged.

For consumers, the government advises them to remain vigilant when buying pork and pork products and to always look for the NMIS seal as a guarantee.

The public is also encouraged to report any animal disease incidence to their respective municipal, city, or provincial veterinary offices.

The DA can be contacted through 09951329339 or 09208543119. – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.

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