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Online selling blamed for entry of tainted meat in Cotabato town

KIDAPAWAN CITY—The provincial veterinarian has blamed online selling, particularly of processed meat, for the first cases of African swine fever (ASF) detected among hogs in Cotabato’s Magpet town.

Dr. Rufino Suropia said the contamination could have been brought through processed meat sent through commercial couriers at the height of the community lockdown ordered to contain the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

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He said Magpet residents, as in other areas in the country, had turned to ordering food and other supplies online when the entire country was placed under strict lockdown in April and May.Online sellers from the Davao region were sending their products through couriers with goods passing through quarantine checkpoints undetected, Suropia said.

Blood samples taken from pigs in at least four remote barangays in Magpet town had turned positive for ASF infection, said Arlan Mangelen, regional director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos) region.

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Culling starts

Mangelen said ASF, a highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease among domestic and wild pigs, had been detected in the villages of Ilian, Kiantog, Tagbac and Magca-alam in Magpet.

“We are investigating these cases. We learned that processed food (chorizo or sausage) made its way to one of the villages,” Mangelen said.

Several pigs had died in the town in the past two days, forcing its owners to consult the municipal agriculture office. Hog raisers in the villages of Tagbac and Pangao-an also reported deaths among their domestic animals.Mangelen said the culling of pigs within a 1-kilometer radius from the site of infection started on Friday and would continue this week to prevent the disease from spreading and affecting hogs in nearby villages.

Suropia said more than 100 pigs had been culled in the Magpet villages of Magcaalam and Ilian, and nearby sitios, considered the ground zero of the outbreak, on Monday.

Checkpoints

Gov. Nancy Catamco has ordered the provincial veterinary office to establish animal quarantine checkpoints in the affected villages to contain the disease.She also ordered Magpet officials to strictly observe health protocols, particularly prohibiting the movement of live pigs and processed meat within the 5-km radius from the affected areas.

Suropia said Magpet would be placed on lockdown to stop the entry and exit of all hogs and meat products in the area.

“We will compel the delivery trucks to open their vehicle for inspection to stop the entry of contaminated meat products,” he said. INQ

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