DA confirms local pigs affected by African Swine Fever

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 9) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) confirmed that African Swine Fever has hit the Philippines, which comes weeks after testing local hogs for the disease.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said on Monday that 14 of the 20 pig blood samples sent to the United Kingdom came out positive with the disease. Affected areas are Rodriguez and Antipolo in Rizal, as well as Guiguinto in Bulacan.

"While it is conclusive that it is positive with African Swine Fever, how virulent that virus, we have yet to understand," Dar said in a press briefing. The second test will show the intensity of the virus affecting pigs, which will be out in a week.

Dar said 7,416 pigs have been culled so far, which include all affected hogs as well as those which have not been infected but are located within the 1-kilometer radius of the affected facilities.

The DA is also verifying reports of possible African Swine Fever cases in other areas, but refuses to disclose where these are. Dar said the disease may have been carried to local farms due to food scraps from hotels and restaurants fed to pigs, or through Filipinos who brought in pork products from countries affected by the disease.

African Swine Fever only affects pigs, but humans can carry the disease and spread it locally. A virus quickly spreads in an affected hog, which could lead to death after three to five days.

READ: FDA orders recall of processed pork from African Swine Fever-affected countries

For now, the DA has received an ₱82-million fund from the Department of Budget and Management to prevent the further spread of the disease. This includes a ₱3,000 financial aid for affected hog raisers, including new piglets for backyard raisers to start again. Dar noted that their latest monitoring showed the areas which previously tested positive for the virus are nearly cleared of the disease now.

Dar added that the Cabinet has approved the creation of a National Task Force on Swine Disease to be led by the DA. They will also tap the Department of Finance, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Department of National Defense to tighten "quarantine measures" and prevent the spread of the disease to other provinces.

Dar said the task force would also install foot baths in all airports and seaports, where all passengers would be required to walk on to wash away traces of the swine disease.

For now, industry groups have assured the public that local pork is safe to eat. Dar, along with fellow DA officials and hog raisers, even shared a pork-laden boodle fight for breakfast to show trust in the ₱260-billion industry. They added that pork prices have not moved much, noting that there's enough local supply months ahead of the Christmas season.

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said separately that there is no need to worry about pork for now, expressing confidence that Dar is "competent enough" to manage the swine flu situation.

Dar said that all hogs are inspected before being slaughtered, and are marked by the seal from the National Meat Inspection Service before being sold in markets.

Meanwhile, Dar said one DA employee is currently under investigation amid reports that he could have allowed the entry of hot meat from China, which has been grappling with the swine disease.