JAKARTA: While concerns are growing over a mysterious viral fever in Asia, the African Swine Fever (ASF) has caused devastation globally to the swine industry with Indonesia the latest to report an outbreak.
The outbreak is described as cataclysmic as at least one in four pigs in the world was culled due to ASF, or about 350 million, according to todayonline.com.
The latest case in North Sumatra has seen authorities expected to spend five billion rupiah to bury nearly 30,000 pigs and execute containment plans against the spread of ASF virus, said the Jakarta Post.
“The Agriculture Ministry confirmed the existence of the virus in 16 regencies in North Sumatra on Dec 12 and reported the case to the World Organisation for Animal Health on Dec 17,” said the portal.
The ASF outbreak has swept across China, Vietnam and Cambodia and has alarmed many countries amid the absence of a vaccine or cure for the disease.
The disease, however, does not transmit to humans as the virus dies during the cooking process, but it could contaminate other pigs near the infected ones — dead or alive.
The disease spread wildly in China, which detected the first case back in August 2018, and has also affected Mongolia, North Korea, the Philippines, Myanmar and Laos.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation recommended “intensive Customs control of passengers’ luggage” for all countries starting at the end of December last year to the beginning of next month, which include Christmas, New Year and the Chinese New Year holidays.
“This means that bringing in meat products such as bak kwa, typically eaten during Chinese New Year, into a country illegally will be putting livestock and livelihoods at risk,” said todayonline.com
Under Singapore’s laws, any person found to illegally import meat products from unapproved sources for the first time could be fined S$50,000 and jailed for two years.
Malaysia and China have banned pork imports from Indonesia following reports of the ASF outbreak while Australia warned travellers will go through unprecedented airport security screenings to bolster its defences against ASF.
The 9news portal said there would be more sniffer dogs, biosecurity officers and X-ray machines at airports to protect Australia’s A$5 billion pork industry.
Other countries affected by ASF include African countries, Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Belgium and Timor Leste.
A big concern about ASF relates to China as criminals have exploited the crisis by intentionally spreading the disease to force farmers to sell their pigs at a low price, before smuggling the meat and selling it on as healthy stock.
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), sometimes the gangs spread rumours about the virus, which is fatal to pigs, but in more extreme cases, they use drones to drop infected items into farms.
This is according to an investigation by the magazine China Comment, which is affiliated to the state news agency, Xinhua.
“The disease has reduced the country’s pig herds by more than 40 per cent because of mass culls designed to stop it spreading further.
“The resulting shortages have seen pork prices more than double, providing opportunities for the criminals to exploit,” said SCMP.