AMID the imminent threat of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the continent, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for an emergency meeting of 10 Asian governments to ensure that the fatal animal disease would not spread to other Asian countries.
The FAO said it opened on Wednesday a three-day emergency meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, “to examine the most recent developments in China following the outbreak of ASF” in the Asian country.
Furthermore, the emergency meeting also seeks to come up with a regional response to the threat that the fatal swine disease could spread to neighboring Asian countries.
The emergency meeting will be attended by veterinary epidemiologists, laboratory experts, senior technical staff and government officials from nine countries “with geographical proximity to China and perceived to be at risk of a transboundary spread of ASF.”
The participants are from Cambodia, China, Japan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the FAO.
The FAO added that experts from outside the region, such as officials from the World Organisation for Animal Health, will attend the meeting.
“It’s critical that this region be ready for the very real possibility that ASF could jump the border into other countries,” said Wantanee Kalpravidh, regional manager of the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (Ectad) in Asia.
“That’s why this emergency meeting has been convened—to assess where we are now—and to determine how we can work together in a coordinated, regional response to this serious situation,” Kalpravidh added.
The meeting will also consider research studies and technologies from the recent and ongoing episodes of ASF in Europe, according to the FAO.
“It’s very important to understand how this virus has spread, historically, within the pig and wild boar populations in other regions of the world, so that we can adapt and tailor appropriate responses and determine the correct course of action needed here in this region,” said Juan Lubroth, the FAO’s chief veterinary officer.
“Perhaps, more critical in terms of risk is the likely role of pork and pork product traffic through production and market chains—whether fresh or cured commodities,” he added.
The FAO said the emergency meeting will conclude on Friday with the “establishment of a regional stakeholder network with defined roles and responsibilities.” The countries are expected to “identify and prioritize the actions that are required for countries to take in the short, medium and longer term.”
“The fact this emergency meeting of experts from Asia and beyond has convened as quickly as it has is emblematic of the concern our member-countries have over this outbreak, and the very real threat it poses to their livestock, their national food security and the livelihoods of millions of people along that value chain,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative for Asia and the Pacific. “The FAO will continue to support this response in every way we can.”