African swine fever reaches the Philippines

Health officials assure public that pork meat still safe for consumption

The Department of Agriculture on Monday, September 9, confirmed that the African swine fever was the cause of death of pigs in some parts of the Philippines, but quickly reassured that pork in the country remains safe for human consumption.

According to Agriculture chief William Dar, 14 out of the 20 blood samples of dead pigs from some areas in Rizal tested positive for ASF virus based on tests conducted in the United Kingdom.

“Out of the 20 blood samples, 14 are positive with African swine fever,” Dar said in a press briefing.

“We continue to monitor, even beyond the 10-kilometer radius. So far, so good. No incidents,” he added.

ASF, a highly contagious viral disease among domestic and wild pigs, has no cure and no vaccine. The Philippine Star reported that mortality rates of ASF are as high as 100 percent.

The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with infected pigs, ingestion of contaminated materials such as food waste, feed or garbage, or contaminated fomites or biological vectors. Infected hogs may experience high fever, depression, loss of appetite, redness of ears, abdomen, and legs, vomiting, and diarrhea that may lead to death.

The DA stressed that, while ASF is confirmed to have reached the country, the Philippines is not in an epidemic stage.

Dar also said that as long as the hogs passed through the proper process of slaughtering and preparation as approved by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), pork is safe to eat. 

“The public should not fear eating pork,” he said.

Dar, along with other agriculture and health officials, as well as hog stakeholders, and members of the private sector had a boodle fight of different pork dishes for breakfast at the DA headquarters in Quezon City to prove pork and processed pork meat were safe for human consumption.

“We hope the public will understand, as we have shown today during the boodle fight, it is safe [to eat pork],” Dar said.

The Department of Health, for its part, gave assurance that ASF does not pose any risk on human health, reiterating that as long as meat was “thoroughly” cooked, it is safe.

“We want to allay the fears of the public by saying that, as long as pork is bought from reliable sources and it is cooked thoroughly, pork is safe to eat,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo also said there is no reason to be alarmed.

“I think there is no need to worry considering the DA secretary has not cautioned us not to avoid or not to eat, or to avoid,” Panelo said. 

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