Large-scale pig farms in China will now be allowed to test for African swine fever (ASF) in an attempt to detect the virus sooner. This decision overturns an earlier government prohibition on commercial farms carrying out their own testing.
The agriculture ministry has asked local husbandry bureaus to encourage large farms to obtain testing kits for the deadly virus that has swept through the country, Reuters reports.
Previously, test kits were not legally available to farmers. Required testing could be handled by government agencies only after signs of illness had been detected.
This effort will aid in early detection, early reporting and early handling of ASF, reducing the risk of it spreading through transport, slaughtering and processing of infected pigs.
“Early detection of index cases before the entire herd is affected would help to limit spread of the virus,” said Chris Rademacher, DVM, associate director of the Iowa Pork Industry Center. “This flexibility should allow pork producers to rapidly turn around suspected cases early on instead of waiting until the clinical signs have progressed to a point where it is obvious that the pigs are infected, which allows for rapid responses to limit the spread of the virus.”
Outbreaks of the disease have now been reported in almost every region of mainland China. Many cases are also going unreported and the detection and handling of outbreaks has been hampered by the previous rules on testing, according to Reuters.
Test kits should be approved by the agriculture ministry or the China Animal Disease Control Center. The ministry said authorities should provide funding to the farms for testing and local animal husbandry departments should help with technical services. Prior to diagnosis, farms should isolate pigs and other potentially infected items.
The agriculture ministry’s statement noted that “the awareness of epidemic prevention in pig farms in China is generally weak.” It said the overall level of epidemic prevention is low, and the cleaning and disinfection measures are difficult to fully implement.
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