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· Swine fever: ‘No way to stop it’ as millions of pigs culled across Asia
… “This is the biggest animal disease outbreak we’ve ever had on the planet,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at City University of Hong Kong and expert on African swine fever…
· African Swine Fever Is Spreading Fast and Eliminating It Will Take Decades
The deadly pig virus that jumped from Africa to Europe is now ravaging China’s $128 billion pork industry and spreading to other Asian countries, an unprecedented disaster that has prompted Beijing to slaughter millions of pigs. But stopping African swine fever isn’t so easy…
Swine fever: ‘No way to stop it’ as millions of pigs culled across Asia
Experts say region losing battle to stop biggest animal disease outbreak on record
via The Irish Times - June 6, 2019
South-east Asia is battling to contain the spread of highly contagious African swine fever, known as “pig Ebola”, which has already led to the culling of millions of pigs in China and Vietnam.
African swine fever, which is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs, was discovered in China in August, where it has caused havoc, leading to more than 1.2 million pigs being culled. China is home to almost half of the world’s pigs and the news sent the global price of pork soaring.
There is no vaccination for African swine fever, which causes pigs to internally haemorrhage until they die, so the only option to contain the disease is to kill any contaminated animals.
Some estimates say that in China up to 200m animals may eventually be slaughtered. The virus can last for several weeks on anything from clothes to vehicles, allowing for it to easily travel long distances.
It has spread like wildfire across Asia, causing growing devastation to the pig farmers of Vietnam and Cambodia and putting Thailand, Asia’s second-biggest pork producer, on “red alert”. Cases have increased in Mongolia, North Korea and Hong Kong in recent weeks, while South Korea is blood testing pigs at the border.
The UN Food and Agriculture organisation (UNFAO) and regional experts fear that Myanmar, Philippines and Laos will be next because they are all highly susceptible to an outbreak, due to the struggle to control the movement of pigs and pig products across porous borders.
“This is the biggest animal disease outbreak we’ve ever had on the planet,” said Dirk Pfeiffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at City University of Hong Kong and expert on African swine fever.
“It makes the foot and mouth disease and BSE outbreaks pale in comparison to the damage that is being done. And we have no way to stop it from spreading.”
“There are concerns that the disease will continue to spread across the countries in south-east Asia,” said Dr Wantanee Kalpravidh, regional manager for UNFAO, who said they believed the swine fever cases being reported by governments in the region were “underestimates”.
Dr Wantanee said problems included the lack of compensation for pig farmers in south-east Asia whose herds were culled, giving them little reason to report a disease outbreak, and fears that banning movement of pigs and pork across borders would only create a “black market which would be impossible to control”.
The implications of the outbreak are already being felt beyond Asia...
African Swine Fever Is Spreading Fast and Eliminating It Will Take Decades
By Jason Gale, Hannah Dormido and Adrian Leung, Bloomberg
June 5, 2019
The deadly pig virus that jumped from Africa to Europe is now ravaging China’s $128 billion pork industry and spreading to other Asian countries, an unprecedented disaster that has prompted Beijing to slaughter millions of pigs. But stopping African swine fever isn’t so easy.
The virus that causes the hemorrhagic disease is highly virulent and tenacious, and spreads in multiple ways. There’s no safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection, nor anything to treat it. The widespread presence in China means it’s now being amplified across a country with 440 million pigs—half the planet’s total—with vast trading networks, permeable land borders and farms with little or no ability to stop animal diseases.
The number of pigs China will fatten this year is predicted to fall by 134 million, or 20%, from 2018—the worst annual slump since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began counting China’s pigs in the mid-1970s. While the pig virus doesn’t harm humans even if they eat tainted pork, the fatality rate in pigs means it could destroy the region’s pork industry.
Spain’s experience with the disease suggests that a cull alone won’t be enough to solve the problem. The country implemented strict sanitary measures and industrialized its hog production system but it took 35 years and help from the European Union before the disease was eradicated in 1995. The Italian island of Sardinia has been trying unsuccessfully to get rid of the virus for four decades, and its hog population is a fraction of China’s.
One of the reasons why African swine fever is so hard to eradicate is that it’s easy to transmit. In addition to direct contact with an infected pig, the virus can be passed on to animals that eat virus-laden pork or feed, via contaminated clothing or equipment or when a pig drinks water containing even minute quantities of the virus.
Studies show that the strain in China closely resembles one that’s been spreading in Russia and other parts of Europe for more than a decade. But scientists still don’t know the route it took to get into the world’s most populous nation. Without knowing how the virus got in, China’s customs officials will have a harder time preventing repeated introductions.
The disease is now in Mongolia, Vietnam, North Korea and possibly other neighboring countries that lack the resources to identify and control the disease. That increases the risk that, even if China does manage to control the disease domestically, it could re-enter the country via people or pork products that cross the border.
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