African Swine Fever cases in Mati City addressed but…

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed the presence of the African Swine Fever in Don Marcelino town in Davao Occidental, the first reported outbreak in Mindanao. MINDANEWS FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 January) — The cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in three barangays of Mati City are now “considered resolved,” the chief of the City Veterinary Office (CVO) said.

Dr. Marites Linsag-Erispe told MindaNews that there are “no more reports of unusual mortality of pigs and no further reports from other neighboring barangays.”

But Erispe said that while the infection in the three barangays has been addressed, they cannot as yet declare that the virus is under control.

She said the threat is still around in surrounding municipalities and within Mati, the center of trade and commerce in Davao Oriental.

She also said that the municipalities of Banaybanay, Lupon, Tarragona, and Boston have tested positive for the virus as well.

The presence of ASF in Mati City was confirmed by officials a month after it was first detected.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs. It causes high fever, loss of appetite, hemorrhages, and death. It also has no vaccine as of now. Although it is not contagious, humans can still be a carrier of the virus and affect the pigs. Another way of transmitting the disease is through unsanitary cages, transporting, and swill feeding.

The ASF reached Luzon from China in 2019 and in late January 2020, Mindanao recorded its first ASF cases in Davao Occidental. It spread to parts of Davao del Sur and Davao City in February, just weeks before the COVID-19 lockdowns started in mid-March.

Late last year, several areas in Mindanao reported ASF infections. In Mati City, six pigs in Barangay Don Salvador died due to the virus on December 16. The infection spread to Barangay Tagbinonga on December 22, killing one sow and in Barangay Buso when a pig was brought by a resident from Barangay Don Salvador which also killed one boar, according to Erispe.

She said there are two possible reasons for the virus reaching the city: through the entry of people from an affected area, direct contact with infected animals and illegal entry of infected pigs, pork meat, or pork by-products.

Although it was detected earlier, the public confirmation of the virus came only a month after, on January 16.

“Taking the experience of other LGUs who experienced the same situation, our office dealt directly (with) the barangay concerned since it is at first an isolated situation, not to cause panic wherein the response of the public becomes uncontrollable especially during the yuletide season,” Erispe said.

Erispe said they immediately informed the affected hog raisers about the virus and discreetly conducted surveillance and testing in the affected areas.

According to her, within a day or two,  they convened a meeting with officials of the affected barangays, to inform them of the findings and the action to be taken.

Depopulation was ordered on December 18, in accordance with DA Administrative Order 22 mandating the culling of hogs within a 500-meter radius from Ground Zero.

Erispe said 126 hogs were culled in the three barangays: 26 in Barangay Don Salvador on December 18, 48 in Barangay Tagbinonga on December 22, and 52 in Barangay Buso on January 6.

Fifty hog-raisers were affected, she said.

In November, Mati City was free of ASF despite the outbreak in Davao de Oro, City Information Officer Ben Jason Tesiorna said.

DA is providing financial assistance to 50 farmers whose hogs were culled. They promised to give P5,000 for every slaughtered adult female pig or sow and P3,000 for every suckling pig.

The city government is also providing financial assistance but there is no announcement yet when this will be and how much.

Erispe said they reminded hog raisers not to feed swill to the pigs, to monitor them and report immediately in case there are deaths. She said they should also maintain regular sanitation and disinfection of the farm, observe strict biosecurity, provide multivitamins, and observe proper feeding management to maintain the good health of their pigs.

With regard to the pork supply and safety of the consumers, Erispe assured that pork sold in the market is safe and ASF-free. She also said their office has already inspected and certified the pork meat products. (Nicole Baulos Burlas / MindaNews)