By Madelaine Miraflor and Calvin Cordova
An unidentified swine disease continues to kill pigs in Rizal province, but the Department of Agriculture (DA) still refuse to release further details.
A local official in Rizal, who requested anonymity, said in a phone interview that the government continues to cull pigs in their area, following the abnormal increase in the hog mortality in Macabud, San Isidro, and San Jose since last Saturday.
He also expects the culling operations to continue until the next three weeks.
DA Spokesperson Noel Reyes, however, said he can neither “confirm nor deny” that the areas allegedly hit by the deadly swine disease African Swine Fever (ASF) are indeed in Rizal.
He also refused to confirm whether the disease was indeed ASF – a contagious viral disease that affects domestic and wild pigs – saying confirmation is still needed from recognized foreign reference laboratory in Europe and results should be out within the next two weeks or three months.
Reyes, however, said the DA is now “on top of the situation” and that intensified security measures are now in place to prevent the spread of the unknown disease throughout the Philippines, which could lead to the destruction of the country’s P260-billion hog industry.
Citing suspected cases of ASF in Luzon, Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap banned the transport of live pigs, pork and pork-related products to the province.
Yap said shipments of pork meat and pork-related products will only be allowed if they have a Veterinary Health Certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian and the appropriate permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Quarantine Services.
“For pork meat and pork-related products, Bohol will also not accept these products unless accompanied by the appropriate Certificate of Meat Inspection from the NMIS (National Meat Inspection Services),” said Yap in a statement released Tuesday.
Yap said he imposed the ban because of “the reported worsening situation in Luzon where the DA (Department of Agriculture) has refused to confirm or deny suspected cases of hog deaths due to ASF.”
The former Agriculture secretary added that he will also issue a memorandum asking Bohol mayors to assign personnel to assist in port quarantine efforts.
“Considering that the hog industry in Bohol affects more than 30,000 households in 21 municipalities valued at more than P6 billion, we have to be proactive in ensuring the protection and sustainability of our local hog industry,” Yap added.
Yap has asked the provincial veterinarian to coordinate with mayors, municipal agricultural officers, Barangay Livestock Aide (BLA) and technicians to improve the monitoring of farms.
“I am issuing instructions to avoid swine swill feeding and the immediate installation of bio security measures such as putting up of foot baths and regular disinfection of farms. Veterinary health programs such as vaccination against health cholera and de-worming must also be implemented,” Yap said.
Cook meat well
The Department of Health (DOH) is reminding the public to cook pork products thoroughly.
“Make sure that the meat products are properly cooked. You shouldn’t eat meat that are half cooked, are still reddish or pinkish, as they are still not cooked fully,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
“So for your own welfare, to make sure that you stay healthy, you must cook meat well,” he added.
Duque warned the public against buying pork meat products that have not been inspected by the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS).
“If you have any hesitations on the meat product, do not buy them, especially if they don’t have proof of passing government tests,” he said.
“They have seals if they have passed meat inspection. So if you see that seal, that means it passed government regulations,” he added.
The ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that although ASF “is not considered as a human health threat, it can still cause major economic loss to swine industries.”
The FDA has already issued a temporary ban on the importation, distribution, and sale of processed pork meat products from 20 countries which were suspected to be affected by the ASF.
These countries are China, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Zambia, South Africa, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Mongolia, Moldova, Belgium, Hong Kong, North Korea, Laos, and Germany.
According to the BAI, pigs in affected backyard swine farms have been showing loss of appetite, recumbency, vomiting, skin hemorrhages, dark discoloration, and sudden death.
And to contain and control the suspected disease, BAI is now implementing the 1-7-10 protocol, which means that within one kilometer (km)-radius of infected farms, there would be quarantine checkpoints to prevent movement of all live pigs, pork, and pork-related products, and that all pigs within the area must be culled.
For swine farms within the 7-km radius, the government must conduct surveillance procedures, test animals to determine the extent of the infection, and limit animal movement, while in farms within10-km radius, mandatory disease reporting is required.
“In partnership with local government units, the private sector, and PNP [Philippine National Police], we at the DA-BAI and concerned DA-RFO [Regional Field Offices] vigorously conduct joint monitoring of the movement of live pigs, pork and pork-related products in suspected infected swine farms,” Reyes said.
“We strongly require the movement and trade of live animals, meat and processed products to be accompanied with appropriate veterinary health certificate, shipping permit, and meat inspection certificate,” he added. (With a report from Analou De Vera)