Amid reports of suspected African Swine Fever (ASF) cases in some areas in Luzon, the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Wednesday assured the public that pork sold in the market is safe for human consumption.
“We were assured by the private sector that there was no pork meat taken out from infected areas. The current supply of meat is from hygienic areas,” DA spokesman Noel Reyes said in a news briefing in Makati City.
The Agriculture department said some backyard farmers reported that among the symptoms observed in their pigs were loss of appetite, recumbency, vomitting, skin hemorrhages and dark discoloration in the extremities.
Experts from the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said several diseases could be associated with these symptoms.
“Thus, further confirmation is needed from a recognized foreign reference laboratory in Europe,” Reyes said.
The confirmatory tests are expected to be completed in two weeks, while some tests could take as long as three months.
On Monday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar neither confirmed nor denied reports that the ASF virus has entered the country. He admitted, however, that the DA received an incident report on August 16 “on an increased mortality of pigs raised by farmers in their backyards.”
The mortality rate has reportedly increased to as much as 20 percent, prompting the Agriculture department to start culling pigs
Dar refused to name the areas where suspected quarantine was ordered, but a local industry source told The Manila Times that these areas include Bulacan and Rizal provinces.
Officials fear that if the ASF virus has entered the Philippines, it could be a major blow to the country’s P260-billion livestock industry.
If this happened, the Philippines would be the ninth country in Asia hit by the ASF, after Russia, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Other countries affected by the ASF include Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and Zambia.
ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of domestic and wild pigs of all ages. There is no preventive vaccine or cure, and the mortality rate is as high as 100 percent.
To prevent the entry of the ASF virus, airport authorities put up bigger and longer footbaths at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals.
The BAI, in coordination with the Bureau of Customs and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), strictly implemented the “no meat” terminals that led to the confiscation of all kinds of animal meat, fresh or frozen meat products and canned meat.
The MIAA said it would strictly monitor all passengers who bring in meat.
With a reports from BENJAMIN L. VERGARA