China has confirmed 74 outbreaks of African swine fever in 20 provincial areas, but the deadly pig virus, which is not harmful to people, won’t break out into regional epidemics, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on Nov 23.
The latest case was detected in Beijing’s Fangshan district on Nov 23, killing 86 pigs on two farms.
About 600,000 live pigs have been culled by Nov 22 since the first outbreak in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on Aug 1, Feng Zhongwu, head of the ministry’s animal husbandry and veterinary department, said at a news conference on Nov 23.
He said quarantines have been lifted in 24 areas in seven provinces, including all affected areas in Henan and Jiangsu provinces.
“The outbreaks feature a dispersive pattern, but we have contained the spread through resolute prevention and disease control measures,” he said, adding that the chance of a sudden surge of regional infections is very slim.
The ministry has banned the feeding of pigs with kitchen waste since the end of August, and has ramped up its supervision over the transport of live pigs.
Research released on Nov 23 shows 46 percent of outbreaks have been caused by people or vehicles carrying and spreading the disease, Huang Baoxu, deputy director of the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center, said at the news conference.
Twenty-three cases occurred as a result of feeding kitchen leftovers to pigs, and the cross-regional transport of live pigs has led to 13 cases, said Huang. Causes of five cases are being investigated.
He added that the emergence of the African swine fever virus in China is likely linked with a virus strain present in Georgia, Russia and Poland, as genome sequence analysis suggests a 99.95 percent similarity. Investigations into the origin are ongoing.
Sixty countries around the globe have been hit by African swine fever since the disease was first detected in Kenya in 1921, and 13 have wiped out infections over periods of five to 36 years, according to the ministry.
About 688 million pigs were slaughtered for food in China in 2017, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
Feng said China’s frequent exchanges with countries hit by the disease and large amounts of trade from abroad have increased its risk of contagion.
Meanwhile, there are 26 million small farming households or enterprises in China. Their lack of preventive measures and low awareness of the disease have aided its spread.
“We will ramp up our disease control and prevention measures, such as enforcing the cataloging of vehicles carrying live pigs, strengthening inspections of international deliveries and travelers, and cracking down on smugglers,” Feng said.
Feng also assured the public that supplies of live pigs and pig products won’t be impacted by the culling and limited transport of live pigs.
“I want to emphasize that African swine fever won’t threaten human lives or affect food security,” he said. “Consumers can rest assured of eating qualified pig meat.”