Hog disease spreads to more areas in Cebu
CEBU CITY — The African swine fever (ASF) has spread to more localities in Cebu amid objection from Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to the projection of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) that the hog disease has reached outbreak level in the province.
According to the BAI, the number of areas infected with the highly contagious viral pig disease rose from six to 12, based on the BAI’s latest National Zoning and Movement Plan for ASF dated March 27 and released on March 30.
The BAI, however, has yet to announce if it would order the culling of pigs in farms located within the 500-meter radius of an infected area, a policy objected to and stopped last week by Garcia.
The announcement of the spread of ASF came a day after Garcia sued BAI officials at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas for their alleged mishandling of the swine fever cases that negatively impacted on Cebu’s multibillion-peso hog industry. Cebu lost its status as an ASF-free province when the BAI detected the virus from samples of slaughtered meat in Carcar City in southern Cebu on March 1.
This has a huge impact on Cebu’s P11-billion swine raising industry, which is one of the biggest in the Visayas.
Cebu does not only market its live hogs and pork products in other parts of the country but is also famous for its “lechon,” or roasted pig, patronized by both locals and visitors.
Cebu’s lechon and cured meat products are so well known that these became an industry in itself and can even be found at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to be brought home by tourists visiting the island.
On March 20, the BAI reported the presence of the ASF in the cities of Cebu and Bogo, as well as in the towns of Liloan, Sibonga and Tuburan. Seven days later, the BAI added six more localities that were infected with ASF—the cities of Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Talisay, and the towns of Cordova, Minglanilla and San Fernando.Cebu has 50 local governments, including the three independent cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
Garcia had yet to issue a statement regarding the development.
Impact on livelihood
On March 29, Garcia accused five BAI and Department of Agriculture (DA) officials of graft for allegedly mishandling the ASF cases in Cebu, mainly for “insisting that there is an ASF outbreak in the province of Cebu and the culling policy is the most effective way to contain the virus.” The governor said the BAI’s “side-sweeping statement… has an immediate impact on the livelihood of the Cebuanos.”
Named respondents were Dr. Paul Limson, BAI director; Samuel Joseph Castro, deputy program coordinator; and Joshua Cruz, BAI coordinator on ASF. Also included in the complaint were Dr. Miriam Lopez Vito of the BAI veterinary quarantine station in Central Visayas, and Dr. Daniel Ventura Jr., DA Central Visayas coordinator on ASF.
Garcia, in an earlier interview, doubted the tests conducted by the BAI, saying it was done without a differential diagnosis to validate the presence of the virus. Differential diagnosis is the process of differentiating between two or more conditions that share similar signs or symptoms.Garcia has insisted Cebu province would not abide by the color-coded zoning of the BAI nor the culling of pigs within a 500-meter radius of an identified infected zone.
The provincial government, which implemented its own anti-ASF measures and policies after questioning the methods the BAI introduced, said there would be no restrictions in the transportation of hogs and pork products within or outside the province.
READ: Persistent pig pandemic
According to the National Meat Inspection Service, ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that affects pigs, warthogs and boars. It causes pigs to have high fever and lose their appetite, and causes hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs.
Pigs die in a span of two to 10 days upon affliction. There is no known vaccine yet against ASF.
Health officials reiterated that ASF does not pose any threats to human and that other pork products from infected areas were safe to eat.