MANILA (Reuters) – Dead pigs found in some backyard farms in the Philippines tested positive for African swine fever, the country’s agriculture chief said on Monday, the first outbreak of the virus detected in the Southeast Asian country.
The announcement was based on the results of laboratory tests requested by Agriculture Secretary William Dar after reports last month of an unusual number of pig deaths in backyard farms.
The Philippines is now the latest Asian nation to be hit by African swine fever despite efforts to protect its $5 billion hog industry that included a ban on pork imports.
“Out of the 20 blood samples (sent to the United Kingdom for testing), 14 are positive with African swine fever,” he said in a media briefing.
Dar said further tests were needed to determine how virulent is the strain found in local hogs. There is no cure or vaccine for the deadly and highly contagious disease, which does not affect people.
As of July 1, the Philippine swineherd was estimated at 12.7 million head, including about 8 million pigs in backyard farms and 4.7 million in commercial farms, according to government data.
The Philippines has so far banned pork and pork-based products from more than a dozen countries, including Vietnam, Laos, and China. In China, the outbreak has spread throughout every province and region of the mainland, as well as to Hong Kong and Hainan island.
In the Philippines, the Department of Agriculture has ordered the culling of thousands of hogs in areas where the disease had been detected.
It has also tightened animal quarantine and food safety measures, prohibiting the transport of live animals and meat products without health and shipping permits.
The Philippines’ import ban covers pork and pork-based products from Germany, North Korea, Belgium, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Moldova, South Africa, Zambia, and Mongolia.
In China, the nation’s pig herd shrank a third in July from the same month a year ago.