African swine fever edges closer to Hong Kong putting authorities on alert as 11 infected pigs are destroyed just across the border in mainland China
- Food and Environmental Hygiene Department says no cause for concern yet, but are monitoring situation
- Officials warn Hongkongers not to buy pork from unknown sources and make sure any meat is well cooked
The first cases of African swine fever have been found in pigs in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, prompting Hong Kong authorities to crack down on meat being smuggled into the city.
Eleven animals that had contracted the disease died at a slaughterhouse in the Xiangzhou district of Zhuhai, China News Service reported, quoting the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
The city neighbours Macau, and is just 60km from Hong Kong, on the other bank of the Pearl River Delta.
China reported its first outbreak in August in the north-eastern province of Liaoning. So far, cases had been reported in 23 provincial regions, resulting in at least 631,000 pigs having to be destroyed, the agency reported.
There are three farms in Zhuhai that are allowed to export pigs to Hong Kong. As of Tuesday, they had supplied 3,840 live pigs to the city in 2018, and all were healthy, according to the Hong Kong Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
African swine fever can be spread by live or dead pigs, and pork products. There is no approved vaccine against the disease.
But the department stressed that the disease would not infect humans.
In a statement on Wednesday, the department said it would keep monitoring the situation, and added there was no report of any African swine fever case in local farms, and there was no outbreak reported at the farms that export pigs to the city.
“The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department will step up cooperation with other relevant departments to stop the illegal import of fresh meat,” the department said, adding that all imported pigs were inspected at border control points before being allowed to enter the city for slaughtering.
“[The department] urges the public not to buy pork from unknown sources and pork needs to be cooked well-done.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong officials conducted a drill on culling pigs in the event of African swine fever spreading across the border.
The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the successful drill was to strengthen the preparedness of its officers in case of an outbreak on local farms.