Asian nations scramble to contain pig disease outbreaks
Asian nations are rushing to contain the spread of the highly contagious African swine fever, with Vietnam culling 2.6 million pigs and China reporting more than a million dead in an unprecedented huge epidemic some fear is out of control.
Smaller outbreaks have been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, North Korea, Cambodia and Mongolia after cases were first reported in China’s northeast in August. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization released a weekly update on the scale of infections yesterday, which reported a new outbreak in Laos.
With pork supplies dwindling as leading producer China and hard-hit Vietnam destroy huge numbers of hogs and tighten controls on shipments, prices have soared by up to 40 per cent globally and caused shortages in other markets.
“This is the largest animal disease outbreak in history,” said Dirk Pfieffer, a veterinary epidemiologist at the City University of Hong Kong. “We’ve never had anything like it.”
In South Korea, where diets rely heavily on pork, there is concern an outbreak could hurt an industry with 6,300 farms raising more than 11 million pigs.
African swine fever is harmless to people but fatal and highly contagious for pigs, with no known cure or vaccine.
Since China first reported an outbreak in early August, one million pigs have been culled. It has reported 139 outbreaks in all but two of its 34 provinces, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says.
The US Department of Agriculture forecasts China’s total hog herd will shrink by 18 per cent this year to 350 million animals, the lowest level since the 1980s. This year’s Chinese pork output might fall by up to 35 per cent, according to Rabobank, a Dutch bank.