ROME – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) urged Asian countries to maintain strict biosecurity controls as African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to spread through swineherds. The FAO reported almost 5 million pigs in Asia have died or been culled because of the disease.

Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, Lao PDR, Mongolia and Vietnam have reported outbreaks, and FAO data indicates that current losses represent more than 10 percent of the total swine population in each of China, Vietnam and Mongolia. The disease is not dangerous to humans but causes up 100 percent fatality in pigs.

FAO’s Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) has deployed several response teams to assist countries in curbing the disease, in collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

“As there is no commercially available vaccine, we need to place greater emphasis on other disease counter efforts,” said FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Juan Lubroth. “Countries must be vigilant at borders — land, sea or air — in preventing the disease’s entrance and spread through the introduction of infected pigs or contaminated pork products. Outbreaks need to be reported immediately.

“We are urging at-risk countries to implement effective biosecurity measures to prevent infected live pigs or contaminated pork products from crossing their borders,” he added.

Small farmers especially are at risk, according to the FAO. In Vietnam, for example, the pork industry accounts for almost 10 percent of the country’s agriculture sector and pork accounts for three-quarters of meat consumed. Vietnam has culled approximately three million pigs which has raised concerns about food insecurity in vulnerable communities.

There are at least 26 million pig producers in China, and small-scale farmers account for about 50 percent of total pork production. Lubroth said, “Some farmers have lost their entire pig herd to the disease and it may take badly-affected countries years to recover from the socio-economic effects of the outbreak.”

In its guidance, FAO urged farmers affected by ASF to not move pigs or pig products. The agency advised emergency operators and veterinary authorities to oversee pig carcass disposal through burning or burial on location, and for countries to have sound compensation strategies in place to support cooperating farmers.