Government on heightened alert over ASF threat
Agriculture Secretary William Dar neither confirmed nor denied reports that the ASF virus has crossed the Philippines and infected backyard hogs specifically in Rizal.
Rudy Santos

Government on heightened alert over ASF threat

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - August 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The deadly African swine fever is threatening the P260 billion pork industry as the government began culling hogs in an unidentified area in Luzon to halt an outbreak of the virus.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar neither confirmed nor denied reports that the ASF virus has crossed the Philippines and infected backyard hogs specifically in Rizal.

Dar, however, confirmed that the Department of Agriculture had received an incident report from the Bureau of Animal Industry “on the increased mortality of pigs raised by farmers in their backyards.”

“We are conducting further confirmatory laboratory tests including sending blood samples to foreign laboratories to ascertain the cause of the animals’ death,” Dar said in a press briefing yesterday.

Dar did not close other details such as the specific area or the number of pigs being culled.

Confirmatory laboratory tests could take two weeks at the earliest or could take three months.

“We need to confirm the tests and we want to do it properly. Let us not make things worse. Allow us to do our jobs to fully look into this,” Dar said.

BAI veterinarian and ASF task force member Joy Lagayan said the mortality rate in the area has shot up to as much as 20 percent when the average mortality rate for pigs should only be about three to five percent.

The DA announcement came after Taiwan listed the Philippines as one of the high-risk areas, saying ASF cases have been detected in Bulacan and Rizal even though the authorities have not reported the cases to the World Organization for Animal Health.

It has already implemented its one-seven-ten principle over the weekend to quarantine and depopulate the area.

This means that all hogs within the one-kilometer radius will be culled, while those in seven and 10 kilometer radius are under strict surveillance.

The DA will also closely monitor the entry and exit of commodities in the area, particularly pork products, while disinfection of the quarantine zone is next in line.

BAI director Ronnie Domingo said the DA is being extra careful in addressing the issue to avoid wrong diagnosis just like what happened in Malaysia and Japan several years ago which led to the decline of the industry.

While ASF is the most prominent disease of the hog industry at the moment, other possible hog diseases include Japanese hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, hepatitis E virus, and encephalitis, among others.

The DA has yet to quantify the value of the affected pigs, but it assured that the incident would not the affect current supply of pork in the market.

“We are also requesting our stakeholders not to take advantage of the situation by raising prices,“ Dar said.

Meanwhile, the DA strengthened its crisis management team to oversee the planning and implementation of appropriate measures to manage, contain and control the suspected animal diseases.

“We assure the animal industry and the general public that we are on top of the situation and that we are doing everything possible. We have upgraded our monitoring and vigilance including stricter quarantine measures in the country’s ports of entry,“ he said.

ASF continues to ravage Southeast and East Asia one year after an outbreak occurred in China.

The Philippines is currently instituting a ban on imports coming from China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, North Korea, Laos, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, Germany and Romania.

Last May, the ASF viral gene had been detected in the confiscated Sky Dragon pork luncheon meat brought from a returning resident from Hong Kong and was seized at the Clark international airport. This was not reported in pigs in the country at that time.

ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs, warthogs, European wild boar and American wild pigs. Mortality rates are as high as 100 percent.

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