DA confirms ASF outbreak in Mindanao

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    BLOOD samples taken from pigs in a southern province in the Philippines, the world’s 10th-largest pork consumer, tested positive for the African swine fever (ASF) virus, the Department of Agriculture announced yesterday.

    It was the first reported case of ASF infections in Davao Occidental. Local reports indicate that around a thousand pigs have been culled amid the outbreak.

    Agriculture Secretary William Dar said he has ordered regional department officials to restrict animal movement in the southern region.

    The Philippines, also the world’s seventh-biggest pork importer, reported its first ASF outbreak in September 2019 in some backyard farms near the country’s capital, Manila. The disease quickly spread to other parts of the main island of Luzon, including Manila, prompting some central and southern provinces to ban pork and pork-based products from disease-hit areas.

    Dar has said pork smuggled from China, where millions of pigs were culled because of the disease, could be behind the outbreak in the Philippines.

    Although blood samples from pigs bred in more than a dozen villages in Davao Occidental had already tested ASF-positive, Dar said more tests will be undertaken by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) for re-confirmation.

    Dar noted that “backyard pig farmers in the area practice group rearing of hogs, from different owners, most (of them without) proper housing provisions or bio-security practices.”

    There was also no regular vaccination, vitamin supplementation and de-worming of pigs in the province, and household butchering is common, especially with animals exhibiting weakness or disease.

    Philippine agricultural output grew at an annual pace of 0.4 percent in the last quarter of 2019, slower than the 2.9 percent gain in the September quarter, as hogs production contracted.

    Though not harmful to humans, the disease is deadly to pigs, with no vaccine available.

    PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES

    To contain the spread of the virus, Davao Occidental Gov. Claude Bautista and respective mayors have imposed a “complete, but temporary, lock down,” prohibiting the transport of pigs and pork products from and into Davao Occidental.

    The provincial government has likewise established 24/7 quarantine checkpoints.

    On the other hand, Davao Regional Field Office director Ricardo Onate, Jr. had an emergency meeting last Thursday with Davao Occidental provincial veterinarian and municipal agriculture officers, as well as representatives from the PNP and the AFP, to address the outbreak.

    BAI national director Ronnie Domingo instructed the Davao regional veterinary quarantine officers (VQOs) to extend full assistance in restricting animal movement, following the 1-7-10 protocol in affected barangays.

    Domingo also ordered other regional VQOs in Mindanao to strictly enforce quarantine procedures and monitor animal movement.

    A trace-back and trace-forward investigations are also being facilitated by the BAI particularly in areas where hog raisers from Don Marcelino actively trade, including the towns of Malita, Santa Maria, and Jose Abad Santos all in Davao Occidental, and Sulop in Davao Del Sur.

    Dar said a coordination meeting was also conducted to identify the disposal sites for culled hogs and to conduct an inventory of the total swine population in affected areas.

    Dar appealed to hog raisers and traders to stop the transport and sale of live hogs and pork products from suspected areas amid the outbreak.

    He also reiterated that ASF is non-transmissible to humans and that pork is safe to eat.

    Mindanao Development Authority chairman and former DA secretary Emmanuel Pinol said Davao Occidental needs the provision of power sprayers, disinfectants, empty drums, wide galvanized pans for footbaths and tents to stop the disease from further spreading in Mindanao.

    The Philippines has submitted a report to the World Organization for Animal Health that ASF in the country continues to spread in Luzon and that it had already culled close to 200,000 pigs.

    Before the discovery in Davao, ASF has been confirmed to be present in Aurora, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Cavite, Pampanga, Bulacan, Caloocan, Rizal, Pangasinan and Quezon City. – Reuters