China warns there may be more African swine fever outbreaks
Agriculture ministry says it is unclear how far the deadly disease has spread
Beijing on Wednesday said there could be more outbreaks of African swine fever in the country as concerns grow over the rapid onset of the deadly disease.
Four cases of the highly contagious disease have been reported since early this month – in northeastern Liaoning province, Henan in central China, and in Jiangsu and Zhejiang in the east of the country.
It is the first time African swine fever has been reported in China and the authorities have already culled more than 25,000 pigs to control the outbreak.
The agriculture ministry said it was unclear how widely the disease had spread across China and there was uncertainty as to how the situation would develop.
“We cannot rule out the possibility of new African swine fever outbreaks,” the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs warned in a statement, saying it was taking measures to prevent any further spread of the disease.
African swine fever affects pigs and wild boars – but not humans – and is spread by ticks and contact between infected animals. Some 2,710 cases of the disease, which is often fatal, have been reported across 11 Central and Eastern European countries so far this year.
The ministry said authorities were investigating and preparing for the possibility of a new outbreak.
“The disease has been prevalent in neighbouring countries for a long time … The risk of reintroduction is still very high,” it said.
Beijing has asked local officials to stop transporting live hogs from high-risk areas and to tighten monitoring of hog transport, the ministry said.
The Romanian agricultural ministry confirmed last week an outbreak of African swine fever in the country’s largest pig farm, with more than 140,000 pigs expected to be culled. More than 100,000 pigs have already been culled in the country this year alone.
China’s strain is similar to the one that has hit Russia, Georgia, and Estonia over the past decade, raising the possibility that it came across the border from Russia.
African swine fever was first discovered in Kenya in 1921 and was first transmitted from Africa to Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries in Europe in 1957. It was spread from western Europe to Cuba in 1971.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said the Korean peninsula and Southeast Asia may be next to report outbreaks of the disease.
“Its detection and diverse geographic spread of the outbreaks in China have raised fears that the disease will move across borders to neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia or the Korean peninsula, where trade and consumption of pork products is also high,” the FAO said on Tuesday.
The FAO said it was communicating with authorities in China and neighbouring countries to raise preparedness should the disease spread.
“The movement of pig products can spread diseases quickly and, as in this case of African swine fever, it is likely that the movement of such products, rather than live pigs, has caused the spread of the virus to other parts of China,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s chief veterinary surgeon.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg