Although African swine fever has not officially reached the CNMI, the Department of Lands and Natural Resources is not taking any chances, warning that the disease has made its way from China to the Philippines and has the potential to spread toward Micronesia.
This early, DLNR, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is warning the public and hog producers in the CNMI to be especially watchful for this highly contagious viral disease.
African swine fever is harmless to people but fatal and highly contagious for pigs, with no known cure, causing severe losses in the swine industry.
On Sept. 9, 2019, USDA-APHIS alerted DLNR that the Philippines confirmed that African swine fever caused the deaths of hundreds of pigs in towns near its capital city of Manila, becoming the latest Asian country to be affected by the disease.
According to CNMI state veterinarian Dr. Ignacio Dela Cruz, official notification has been made to immediate DLNR staff, agricultural quarantine inspectors, small pig farms as well as airport and seaport quarantine offices regarding the USDA-APHIS report of the outbreak in the Philippines’ Rizal and Bulacan backyard hog producers.
Dela Cruz noted that the latest survey of livestock and poultry for Saipan was conducted in 2017. That survey accounted for 36 hog or swine producers with a total of 999 hogs or pigs being raised. These numbers, however, are just approximate numbers of the total swine producers on the island in 2017 and accounted for only 90% of the total swine population on Saipan.
“I’ve contacted the supervising officers of our Airport and Seaport Agricultural Quarantine and told them about the African swine fever outbreak in the Philippines that was reported on Sept. 9, 2019. The first case was reported on Aug. 19, 2019. Rizal and Bulacan are two provinces that are currently under quarantine. I think the plan of the Philippine government is to cull, contain, and completely eradicate the disease, which is supposed to be very complex, difficult and challenging, requiring a lot of manpower and funding resources,” Dela Cruz said.
DLNR Secretary Anthony Benavente emphasized that although African swine fever has not officially reached the Micronesian region, every effort must be made to prevent its entrance due to the proximity of affected countries.
“African swine fever is a highly contagious and deadly disease that can adversely affect our livestock. Our state veterinarian advised our quarantine officers to instruct every inspector to confiscate and incinerate all pork products encountered at the seaport and airport, and to [carefully inspect] each cargo and passenger from the Philippines and other ASF infected countries like China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, Hong Kong, North Korea, Laos, Thailand, and other Asian countries. We advise our hog producers, and distributors to be mindful of this and practice extra caution until further advisement from USDA and our office,” Benavente said.
The Philippine agriculture department opened a probe on Aug. 19, 2019, following increased swine deaths from backyard raisers and ordered that all pigs within a one-kilometer (about 0.62 miles) radius of infected farms be killed.
Lab tests have confirmed that African swine fever caused the deaths of pig herds in at least seven villages near Manila, after 14 of 20 blood samples sent to a British lab tested positive for the disease. More than 7,400 pigs have been culled in farms.
The Philippines is the latest country in Asia to be hit by the disease, with hard-hit China and Vietnam culling millions of pigs and scrambling to find a vaccine to contain infections that have ravaged their swine industries.
China is home to half the world’s pig population. In Vietnam alone, the virus has caused the deaths of more than 4 million pigs.
Some experts have said the current spread of swine fever is the largest known animal disease outbreak in history. (PR, With AP)