The Department of Agriculture has cautioned the people in Luzon lately about the spread of the African swine fever that rocked the cities of Marikina, Quezon and Antipolo. This, after pig carcasses were found floating through the Marikina river. As of September 18, the total number of dead pigs rose to 58 and they were immediately buried by the local government officials to ensure that it would not spread anymore.
But, as this developed, more than 7,400 pigs have also been culled on farms in villages in Rizal and Bulacan provinces that were feared to have been hit by the viral infection only recently. The Philippines is the latest country in Asia to report the disease, with hard-hit China and Vietnam culling millions of pigs and quickly working out to find a vaccine for such an infection that ravaged their swine industries.
The news of the African swine fever has brought concerns among the consumers and this resulted to a drop in the sales of pork in the Luzon areas. According to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, the Philippines currently has 12 million hogs in its inventory and the industry is worth roughly P260 billion. But to cushion its impact to the consuming public, Dar claimed that they have already controlled the spread of the disease by immediately putting affected areas under quarantine and culling all pigs within a 1-kilometer radius.
On the other hand, Chester Tan (President of the National Federation of Hog Farmers, Inc.) said that not even 1 percent of the entire industry was affected by the disease and so there was no need to declare it as an epidemic. He explained that the African swine fever virus potentially came from hotels, restaurants or even overseas Filipino workers bringing pork products from affected countries.
But, what is this African swine fever and what is its effect on the health of the people? According to Dr. Manuel Carlos, head of the City Veterinary Services Office (VSO) the African swine fever virus is a contagious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat or food safety concern. It can be transmitted through contaminated feeds, and even through non-living objects such as shoes, clothes and knives due to the virus' high resistance.
But then, with the dead pigs thrown in the rivers already in their advanced stage of decomposition, concerned citizens are worried that this could potentially infect humans. News on tv and radio stations drummed this up, and in just a few days the African swine fever has become a national concern which necessitated the DAR Chief to declare the first African swine fever outbreak in the Philippines. The announcement was made after the results of laboratory tests requested by Secretary Dar turned out to be positive. Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine for this deadly and highly contagious disease, and pig owners were left contemplating on their losses as they helplessly watched their pigs die in their farms. The infection usually causes high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages, and death among domestic and even wild pigs.
Incidentally, Philippine authorities have tightened quarantine checks in airports and seaports, and cracked down on smuggling of imported meat to prevent large-scale outbreaks. They also assured the public that pork supply and prices will remain normal. The good news, is that this African swine fever has not yet crossed the Visayas and Mindanao areas. The provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur have announced stricter measures, even to the extent of banning the entry of swine and pork products from other provinces or areas affected with ASF.
So there - pork lovers in Mindanao particularly in Iligan City can still enjoy their slices of pork chop, pork belly, tender loin and all pork recipes without having to worry about this African swine fever.