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Officials to hit meatworks to prevent African swine fever outbreak

Officials to hit meatworks to prevent African swine fever outbreak

PHUKET: Local pig farms as far afield as Krabi are being checked for any signs of African Swine Fever (ASF) after a Chinese tourist was caught last week bringing sausages into the country that were carrying the virus.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Friday 25 January 2019, 10:31AM

A Department of Livestock Development inspects meat hanging at a fresh market. Photo: DLD / file

A Department of Livestock Development inspects meat hanging at a fresh market. Photo: DLD / file

The sausages were seized from a Chinese tourist who flew from Chengdu, the capital of China's south-western Sichuan Province, to Phuket International Airport, last Wednesday (Jan 16).

Tests conducted confirmed the presence of ASF, said Sorawit Thaneto, Director-General of the Department of Livestock Development, earlier this week.

“Strict inspections of processed pork products from overseas are now in place, in a bid to stave off an outbreak. If unchecked, ASF could decimate our swine farm industry,” said Mr Sorawit said. (See story here.)

Phuket Livestock Office Acting Chief Manas Thepparuk confirmed to The Phuket News that the contaminated sausages had been destroyed by officers at the Animal Quarantine Station at the airport.

"Now, provincial livestock officials have started to check pig farms in the area, including as far away as Krabi," he said.

"We will inspect all cold-storage units at farms and meat distribution centres on the island in February," he added.

“I do not think that the virus has spread here, at this stage it has only been confirmed found at the airport, but I do worry about farmers who have pig farms. If the virus is found, all the pigs must be destroyed," Mr Manas explained.

The World Organisation for Animal Health describes African swine fever as a severe, highly contagious haemorrhagic viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs.

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"It is responsible for serious production and economic losses," the agency notes.

"This transboundary animal disease (TAD) can be spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, and pork products;

"Furthermore, transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and fomites (non-living objects) such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives, equipment etc., due to the high environmental resistance of ASF virus," the agency explained

There is no approved vaccine against ASF, the organisation notes. (See report here.)

François Roger, an epidemiologist with French agricultural research organisation CIRAD, in September last year voiced grave consequences for an outbreak of ASF out of China.

In just one month last year, China saw ASF outbreaks in six provinces.

"African swine fever (ASF) has been seen in Chinese pigs since early August. The epidemic reeks of economic catastrophe, given that the country accounts for more than half the world's pigs and ASF is one of the most contagious animal diseases, albeit, of course, harmless to humans," Mr Roger wrote.

"Experts are afraid that the disease might become established in China and spread to neighbouring countries,” he added, noting that such an outbreak would constitute “a dramatic scenario for the entire supply chain in Asia.” (See Mr Roger’s report here.)

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