Vietnam culls 1.5 million pigs as African swine fever epidemic rages

By Tat Dinh   May 20, 2019 | 08:06 pm PT
Vietnam culls 1.5 million pigs as African swine fever epidemic rages
Vietnam's agriculture officials have warned of further spread of African swine fever in the country if proper prevention and quarantine are not applied. Photo by Reuters/File
Vietnamese has culled 1.5 million pigs, or 5 percent of its population, that were infected with African swine fever.

The incurable pig disease is raging across the country, spreading to 34 out of the country’s 64 cities and provinces, including the capital Hanoi.

"The situation has grown extremely complicated," Nguyen Xuan Cuong, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said.

Never in history has the world faced such a "dangerous disease," he said.

Vietnam began to prepare for the outbreak since it appeared in China last August but has still been unable to keep the viral disease under control after it started spreading in the country in February, he said.

Without proper prevention and quarantine, the disease, will continue spreading possibly all over Vietnam, he warned.

African swine fever virus is shed in blood, saliva, tears, nasal secretions, urine, faeces, and secretions from the animal's genital tract. Pigs can therefore become infected by contact with many different infected sources, mainly infected pigs, pork, and other pig-derived products like swill and fomites like bedding, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Cuong said there is no guarantee the disease would not return to places where it has been eradicated, besides which the disease has been detected not only in household livestock but also on large farms.

Speaking during a field trip to inspect quarantine activities in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District on Sunday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc cited FAO’s warning to Vietnam that it observes the situation closely to decide if and when there is a need to establish a high institutional level of alert, apply a zoning approach to prevent the disease’s spread and develop standard operating procedures for swine depopulation and carcass disposal.

He warned all cities and provinces where the disease has not been reported yet to be prepared.

At a government meeting last week, agriculture ministry officials said African swine fever could lead to "catastrophic consequences," damaging the economy in general and threatening the pig farming sector, a major segment of the nation’s livestock industry.

Suspecting that outbreak control is inefficient in many areas where it has been detected, Minister Cuong had said the armed forces should be deployed to supervise anti-epidemic measures, but the government has yet to respond to the proposal.

After it hit Vietnam in February, African swine fever quickly spread across the northern and central regions.

It went south in early May, infecting two farms in Dong Nai Province, home to the nation’s largest pig herd and a major source of pork supply to neighboring Ho Chi Minh City, and then spread to the Mekong Delta.

Vietnam has the world’s seventh biggest pig herd and is the sixth largest pork producer, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Some 70 percent of meat products in Vietnam are from pigs, with over 10,000 farms and 2.5 million households raising the animal for food.

There is no cure for African swine fever though humans are not affected by it.

Twenty countries and territories have reported outbreaks since 2017 and over 2.5 million pigs have been put down, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. Vietnam is the third country in Asia to be hit after China and Mongolia.

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