BACOLOD City – The province of Negros Occidental is on heightened alert after the Department of Agriculture confirmed the first outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in the country.
Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) head Renante Decena said quarantine measures have been further tightened to protect the multi–billion local swine industry.
“We have readied contingency plans to prevent the dreaded virus from entering the province,” he added.
Decena said they are presently waiting the order of the DA’s central office on how they should regulate hog shipments coming from Luzon.
On Monday, Agriculture secretary William Dar disclosed that 14 of the 20 blood samples sent to a United Kingdom laboratory tested positive for ASF. Dar also confirmed that 7,416 hogs have been culled so far.
The virus reportedly originated from the leftover food coming from hotels and restaurants, and later given to pig farms in order to serve as feed for the hogs.
Decena, however, said the province is well-prepared even before Dar made the announcement, with the local African Swine Fever Task Force regularly visiting local meat processing plants, supermarkets and ports.
As of January this year, Negros Occidental has a total swine population of 508,709 heads, including 451,035 heads from backyard raisers and 57,674 heads from the commercial sector.
“In the meantime, all hogs ordered from Luzon will temporarily be barred from entering the province and he has asked the cooperation of local hog farmers,” he added.
ASF is a highly contagious and dangerous disease for pigs, with the ability to decimate entire populations if not detected and culled at once.
The disease is hemorrhagic in nature, causing infected pigs to die within a matter of days.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health, there is currently no cure or vaccine for the disease, which is why governments have resorted to culling as the only solution to preventing the disease’s spread.
Both the DA and the Health department said ASF is harmless to humans.
The main cause of the disease’s rapid spreading is the contamination of vehicles and workers near affected pig populations, with live pigs and pork products making up only 19 percent of the causes of outbreaks./PN)