China may face wider pork bans as African swine fever spreads

In this December 19, 2014 file photo, a worker digs in a fermentation bed at an organic pig farm in Handan in northern China’s Hebei province.

Bans on pork products from China may be widened as part of emergency measures to stem the global spread of African swine fever.

The Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations agency spearheading an international effort to control the deadly pig virus, plans to release recommendations for governments after a crisis meeting in Bangkok this week. The Philippines last week ordered a temporary prohibition on pigs and pig-related products from China, Russia and four European countries to prevent African swine fever. More nations may follow, according to the FAO.

The contagious viral illness, which doesn’t harm humans, can be 100-percent fatal to pigs, causing them to die from hemorrhagic disease within days. Tens of thousands of hogs have been culled to control outbreaks in China, which accounts for more than half the planet’s pigs.

The FAO is hosting government and pork industry officials from across Asia Pacific at a three-day meeting that concludes Friday.

“By this Friday, we will come up with a framework for the region with priority action plans for each country,” said Wantanee Kalpravidh, regional manager of the FAO’s Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases, in an interview on Wednesday.

China’s most recent African swine fever outbreak occurred on September  1 in the township of Changqing in northeastern Heilongjiang province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the border with Russia, where the disease has been spreading for more than a decade.

Circulating virus

Nine other outbreaks have been reported across northeastern and eastern China, spanning some 2,500 kilometers, since August 1.

“There are serious concerns that African swine fever has been circulating in the pig population—whether backyard, commercial or wild boar—for some time,” Helen Roberts and Jonathan Smith, from the UK’s Animal and Plant Health Agency, wrote in an
August 31 report.

The situation should serve as an opportunity to warn travelers not to bring pig meat products from outside the European Union into any EU member-state, they said.

Travelers from Shenan province arriving in South Korea voluntarily handed over pig products that were subsequently tested and found by authorities to harbor traces of the virus, the Korea Times reported on its web site last month.


Image Credits: Chinatopix via AP

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