Thailand: Red alert in bid to stop pig Ebola crossing border

Thailand: Red alert in bid to stop pig Ebola crossing border: Being one of Asia’s top pork producers, Thailand, is intensifying efforts to hold off a lethal pig virus that’s causing havoc as it spreads across the region. A disease that kills nearly all the pigs it infects called African swine fever, has been spreading through Asia from China and Mongolia to Vietnam and Cambodia. Millions of pigs have been culled, creating a global protein shortage and saddling farmers and food businesses with billions of dollars in costs.

Anan Suwannarat, the permanent secretary in Thailand’s Agriculture Ministry, said in an interview, “We’re on red alert for the pig virus, we’re trying everything to prevent it from spreading to Thailand.”

Thailand has tightened inspections at airports and border checkpoints cracked down on illegal slaughterhouses and traders and imposed stricter requirements for reporting hog deaths. The authorities have detected contaminated pork products at airports and borders, but have not yet found any cases at farms.

China being the largest pork producer, and the consumer, has been trying to contain the outbreak since August. But due to the lack of vaccine, the virus keeps spreading.

The strain of African swine fever spreading in Asia is undeniably nasty, killing virtually every pig it infects by a hemorrhagic illness similar to Ebola in humans. However, it’s not known to sicken people.

Cheerasak Pipatpongsopon, the deputy director-general at Thailand’s Livestock Department said, “Preventing the outbreak is our national agenda. Even if it gets into the country, we’ll be quick in containing the outbreak to minimize the damage to the industry.”

The Agriculture Ministry has estimated an outbreak may cost the Thai economy more than $1 billion if over 50% of the country’s hogs are infected.

DirkPfeiffer, a professor at the Department of Infectious Diseases and Public Health at the City University of Hong Kong, “No country is safe. There’s a high risk of introduction of the virus for Thailand, as is the case for every country in the region and beyond.”

Thailand produces over 2 million hogs each year, and exports about 40% to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. It doesn’t import live hogs or pork meat, according to Cheerasak, and now visitors are not permitted to bring processed pork products into the country.

The Thai Swine Raisers Association said the government is striving to keep the disease out. The group’s president, Surachai Sutthitham, said he’s “confident Thailand can stay clear of the virus.”