Reuters – The Dominican Republic is restricting pig shipments and mobilizing the military to contain the spread of African swine fever (ASF), the agriculture ministry said July 29, as the United States and Mexico tightened border checks to avoid infections.
In an official statement July 29, Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) also said it was “closely monitoring the situation in the Dominican Republic and working with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to strengthen the appropriate border controls for the Caribbean.”
“The emergence of ASF in the Dominican Republic underscores the need for continued and strengthened vigilance to prevent the spread of ASF to other regions,” the CFIA said. “We will continue to work with the pork industry and our international partners, ensuring high levels of biosecurity to prevent further global spread of ASF.”
Canada does not, however, import pork or pork products from the Dominican Republic, the CFIA added.
The first case of ASF confirmed in the western hemisphere has sent “alarm bells” ringing for Canadian pork producers, a release from the Canadian Pork Council (CPC). Perhaps one of the biggest disease bogeymen in the North American pork sector, the threat of ASF has sparked significant national in international efforts to keep the disease at bay, including the “Framework for the prevention and control of African swine fever,” released in 2019.
The CPC estimates a “single, positive case” of ASF “could result in the immediate suspension of pork and pig exports valued at over $5 billion in 2020,” a July 29 release read.
On July 28, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it had confirmed ASF in samples from the Dominican Republic, raising concerns about the risk for transmission to the rest of the Americas, which until this point had been ASF-free.
U.S. testing of 389 samples from Dominican hogs raised on farms and in backyards indicated the contagious disease is in “a small population of backyard pigs from Sánchez Ramírez and Montecristi provinces,” according to a statement from the Dominican agriculture ministry.
The United States and Mexico separately increased airport inspections to stop travelers from bringing in Dominican pork products that could carry the virus. Both countries previously blocked Dominican pork.
“The confirmation of ASF in the Dominican Republic certainly is very, very concerning,” said Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary. “We will need to elevate our ability to keep it out.”
The disease is harmless to humans but often fatal to pigs. It originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia and has killed hundreds of millions of pigs, while reshaping global meat and feed markets. The disease destroyed half of China’s hog herd, the world’s largest, within a year of being detected there in 2018.
The Dominican Republic will prohibit live and slaughtered pig movement in Sánchez Ramírez and Montecristi, according to the ministry’s statement. There will be “total military control in all strategic points of both provinces,” and the ministry will help disinfect affected areas, it said.
Sánchez Ramírez has 15,000 pigs and Montecristi has 4,600 pigs, out of 1.8 million nationwide, according to the ministry.
“There is no type of vaccine for this terrible illness,” said Rafael Abel, president of the agricultural commission of the chamber of deputies, as he proposed killing all the pigs in the affected areas.
This would represent losses of around US$180 million, he said.
The Dominican Republic, with help from the United States and others, killed all its 1.4 million pigs to end its last African swine fever outbreak in 1978, according to a report presented to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
– With files from the Manitoba Co-operator.