Vietnamese Authorities Search for Answers to ASF Spread

A local slaughterhouse worker in Vietnam cools down pigs.
( International Livestock Research Institute/Andrew Nguyen )

African swine fever (ASF) continues to plague the Chinese pork industry while Vietnam remains on high alert after discovering the virus on three household farms in Hung Yen and Thai Binh provinces, authorities announced on Tuesday. Vietnamese authorities are raising the question of how this disease is spreading to such remote locations. 

In addition to tourists, who can spread the disease across borders by carrying contaminated products, authorities are looking into the possibility of disease spread by migrant birds who may have been in contact with dead infected hogs.

ASF can survive and remain infective for a long period of time in the environment and in pork products, said Pawin Padungtod, senior technical coordinator at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization’s Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases. “Experience in China suggests that the virus is mostly spread by transport vehicles and humans,” Hanoi-based Pawin said.

After ASF was discovered in China last August, authorities across Asia have been working to slow the disease spread, tightening border controls, banning transport of pigs, and slapping travelers caught carrying pork products with fines. Although barriers may go some way to stop contamination via wild boars, the possibility that birds could spread the disease is raising new concerns, a Bloomberg article said. 

Dr. Gordon Spronk, DVM, of Pipestone Veterinary Services, said, “While birds are on the list, this risk is much lower than the obvious: infected pigs, trucks and feed. That is where we need to focus.”

Authorities in Vietnam’s Thai Binh and Hung Yen provinces are sterilizing contaminated farms and high-risk areas, while closely controlling the transport of pigs, pork products, the slaughter of pigs and consumption of pork products in affected areas. No new cases have been reported recently.

According to Pawin, the recent outbreak in Vietnam increases the risk of ASF entering neighboring Laos and Cambodia. Thailand, also bordering Laos and Cambodia, said earlier this week that it would step up its surveillance efforts along its border to prevent an outbreak in the country.

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