African Swine Fever reaches Pacific

Samoa and the region’s worst biosecurity fears have been realised with news that African Swine Fever (A.S.F.), the lethal disease that has decimated pork farming in East Asia, has arrived in the Pacific. 

Papua New Guinea has announced that its multi-million pork industry is under threat due to an outbreak of A.S.F.

The disease was initially discovered in Mendi, in that country’s Southern Highlands Province.

According to a Pacific Community press release, the disease is believed to have been transported through carriers and possibly imported canned food.

The virus was suspected when more than 300 pigs in the Province became sick and started dying in February.

But the presence of the disease was only confirmed when samples from the dead animals were sent to Australia.

The news comes just a week after Samoa declared a crackdown on biosecurity measures in efforts to protect Samoa’s pork industry.

This includes the temporary banning of the importation and sale of pork sourced from countries affected by the deadly disease.

An estimated 10 per cent of Asia’s pig supplies were said to be affected by the disease, for which there is no vaccine.

Some 40 million pigs in China alone are estimated to have been killed by the latest outbreak of the disease, which began in late 2018. 

The disease does not affect humans. 

However, the virus is spread by direct contact between pigs which are infected and their bodily fluids or tissues and indirectly from contact with contaminated objects such as vehicles, equipment, footwear, clothing or food. 

The only way to limit the spread of the virus is to slaughter infected animals. 

So far, the pandemic has led to outbreaks being reported in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean.

Under measures announced by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (M.N.R.E.) late last month, the importation of pork products from countries affected by the disease into Samoa was prohibited.

Any existing products for sale in stores sourced from countries in which the disease is active must be immediately removed from sale, according to the notice from the Ministry.

“All expenses associated with the re-shipment or destruction of the consignment will be borne solely by the importer,” the notice warns.

“Any breach of the conditions of importation and sale will be in contravention of the Quarantine (Biosecurity) Act 2005 and the Ministry may exercise its legal rights to enforce compliance.

“Any non-compliance will result in 100 [per cent] seizure of regulated articles by the Ministry [and] may result in charges being laid.”

The measures were passed by Cabinet on 18 March.

The Ministry also warned that spot checks of pork products for sale in Samoa will also be conducted looking out for the presence of the signs of the disease.

The crackdown is a result of an A.S.F. risk assessment mission in Samoa by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (F.A.O.) in February this year.

The subregional Coordinator for the United Nations F.A.O. to the Pacific, Eriko Hibi, urged Samoan authorities to take stricter biosecurity measures to prevent the disease from entering the country.

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