Cebu News

Incentives for early ASF detection pushed

Robhe Jane C. Yara - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Cebu provincial government is planning to incentivize the immediate reporting of suspected African Swine Fever (ASF) cases across the province to intensify monitoring and encourage more participation in defeating the disease.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia told reporters Wednesday, March 15, that she plans to put up a team consisting of mayors down to barangay and "purok" (barangay district) personnel, including barangay animal health aides (BAHA) and health care workers for such monitoring.

She said the initiative is to monitor backyard hogs as the most susceptible to ASF or the common swine flu (hog cholera) infestation. But she gave a stern warning she would impose a penalty for violators, though the amounts were not yet indicated.

Garcia met with provincial mayors this week and tasked them to conduct massive information drives against the two diseases, adding the mandate that hog raisers should isolate pigs manifesting symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, reddening or darkening of the skin, gummed up eyes, labored breathing and coughing, among others which could be tell-tale signs of ASF or hog cholera.

The two (ASF and cholera) are deadly, except cholera becomes fatal in its most virulent form, said Garcia.

She also prioritized strengthening pig pens' biosecurity, a temporary ban on swill "lamaw" feeding, and disinfection, stressing that the two diseases spread through body-to-body contact, exchange of fluids, and fomites.

Biosecurity refers to practices designed to prevent, reduce or eliminate the introduction and spread of disease, particularly in livestock. Fomites are inanimate objects that can carry and spread disease and infectious agents.

Like Covid-19 precautions, Garcia said she would task Integrated Provincial Health Office (IPHO) to provide a timely list of hog deaths and trace the cause of fatalities.

"We are going to come up with protocols that take into consideration existing conditions on the ground, and more so as with Covid (19) that will balance safety for our pigs and security for our pigs, but more than that, these are pigs, livelihoods of our constituents that should be a paramount interest. They can only continue their livelihood if their hogs are not infected," said Garcia.

No more random testing

Garcia said she had already ordered the Department of Agriculture Central Visayas (DA-7) to stop conducting random indiscriminate testing of pigs in Cebu using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) method under Section 16 of the General Welfare Act.

The governor reiterated the test only detects nucleic acids (virus multiplier) but does not identify the virus type that infected the host. She said further tests are needed to determine the virus that infected a hog, which the country lacks testing equipment at the time.

Instead, she demanded to examine at least five samples of the carcass (dead pigs) from their liver, lungs, and spleen, not limiting it to blood samples if they are ASF or cholera positive.

Carcar pork products are safe

Garcia also announced DA had already permitted the transport of Carcar pork products outside their zone (infected or red zone), contrary to the agency's previous announcement that no pork products could move outside the city.

Garcia stated that this means Carcar's "lechon," "longganisa," "chicharon," and all other pork-cooked products are safe for consumption, emphasizing the latest advisory from the Department of Health (DOH) that neither ASF nor Cholera is transmissible to humans. But she clarified that the transport of live hogs is still not allowed, and stringent border control is still implemented in Carcar.

Just this week, Garcia also ordered the halt of pig culling in Carcar, particularly within the reported three allegedly ASF heavily-infected barangays and their 500-meter radius. She also released a memorandum for it, adding that she would be giving Carcar at least seven days for close monitoring before she might lift its red zone status.

Culling is when animals in disease-endemic areas, infected or not, are slaughtered to prevent further disease spread. It involves either shooting [the pigs] on the farm, taking them to an abattoir, and disposing of them in a skip.

Garcia stressed that this should not have been the case, especially for healthy pigs, and reiterated that only those infected ones should be culled, followed by contact tracing and strict monitoring of those pigs that previously had contact with the infected ones.

"We kill the pigs even though they are healthy so they will not get infected because if they get infected, they might die, so we better kill them so that they will not die. This is a nonsensical policy, honestly. There is no logic there," said Garcia.

Garcia said she set to meet with the mayors for another discussion Tuesday, March 21.-Robhe Jane C. Yara

Green Zone

In Cebu City, the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Fisheries continues its monitoring especially of barangays considered as “hot spots” even as the city remains under the green zone or ASF-free.

“Green zone pa gyud ta..Wala pay declaration nga naa tay laing color,” said the city veterinarian Maribojoc.

Even with that, DVMF continues its information dissemination campaign in the barangays including biosecurity to prevent the ASF here, especially in areas where there are hog raisers.

“Ang atong gusto mahitabo man gud is dili pasudlon ang ASF sa ilang babuyan,” Maribojoc said.

There are 11 barangays in the city that are considered hotspots though the names of all barangays had not been revealed. DVMF is closely monitoring it together with the nearby barangays.

The City’s Disaster team is also helping DVMF in the monitoring of hogs to be able to protect the city from ASF.

“Maski negative siya sa atoang mga sample nga gipangsubmit, to confirm if kung naa pa ang mga baboy, to which naa pa ang uban,” said Maribojoc.

Hotspot is a term used by DVMF for those with a history of dead hogs, but not caused by ASF itself.

From 20 hotspot areas last January, it was down to only nine at the time of the deactivation of the city’s border control and now currently at 11.

“Kay naay history or naay gi report  nga naay nangamatay,” said Maribojoc.

Maribojoc also disclosed that the insurance that the Department of Agriculture is offering is not only for hogs but also for other livestock, which Cebuanos should take advantage of.

“Dili lang diay ang pagbuhi sa mga baboy apil pud ang ubang livestock animals pwede nila ma ensured..So enkaso ASF man siya o dili, pwede ma bayran sa national..So akong awhag sa tanang nagbuhi og baboy, manok, kanding og baka, carabao, pwede diay nila e ensured..Ug dili lang ang kahayupan kon di apil na ang mga high valued crops and vegetables, enkaso naay baha, tag tuyot, mabayran sila,” Maribojoc said.

One can register thru the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA). One may also ask for assistance from the City’s Agriculture Department on this matter.

At the moment, there is still enough supply of pork meat in Cebu City as there are still some sources available although prices have already increased by P20 to P30 per kilo accordingly. — Caecent N. Magsumbol, JMD (FREEMAN)

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