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Suspected African swine fever cases in Rizal reported

/ 06:35 AM August 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) has ordered the culling of hogs in an area in Rizal suspected to be infected by the African swine fever (ASF) virus — an epidemic that has the capacity to destroy the country’s P260-billion livestock industry.

While Agriculture Secretary William Dar neither confirmed nor denied reports in a press conference on Monday that the virus has entered the country despite strict security measures, he said they received an incident report on Aug. 16 “on an increased mortality of pigs raised by farmers in their backyards.”

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Backyard raisers affected

An industry source told the Inquirer that the infected areas were Rizal and Bulacan, which were also cited by a Taiwan-based media outlet as basis for Taiwanese authorities to strengthen their ASF protocols against the Philippines.

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But Dar clarified that only backyard hog raisers were affected.

Dar has directed the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to conduct further confirmatory laboratory tests, including sending blood samples to foreign laboratories to ascertain the cause of the animals’ deaths.

The test results are expected to be logged in two to three weeks, although Dar said some confirmatory tests could take as much as three months.

Spike in mortality rate

BAI veterinarian Dr. Joy Lagayan — who’s also a member of the ASF task force under the Crisis Management Team — said the usual mortality rate for pigs is between 3 to 5 percent.

In this case, however, the mortality rate in the area spiked to as high as 20 percent.

BAI director Dr. Ronnie Domingo said the ASF virus may have possibly been caused by swill feeding, or the act of feeding hogs scrap food commonly known as “kanin baboy.”

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While Rizal is a not a major hog-production area, commercial hog companies such as Lucio Tan-led Foremost Farms and Gokongwei-led Robina Farms have operations there.

Agriculture Undersecretary Ariel Cayanan said the DA would strictly monitor the entry and exit of agricultural commodities in the area especially pork, while disinfection of the quarantine zone is underway.

The BAI has declared the area a “quarantine zone,” which means the automatic depopulation of all hogs within 1 kilometer from the virus’ ground zero and the further surveillance of areas within 10 kms.

Dar assured consumers that the incident would not affect the supply and prices of pork in the market, and stressed that the ASF virus would not pose any health concerns to humans.

There is no known cure for the ASF virus.

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