May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

African Swine Fever Hits Vietnamese Pig Farms

May 16, 2019 08:09 AM EDT

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Vietnam is a country with a population of roughly 95 million people and pork accounts for nearly 75 percent of overall meat consumption. The bulk of its 30 million farm-raised pigs are consumed nationally. It was early this year when the virus was first discovered in Vietnam, spreading to 29 provinces including Dong Nai, which provides around 40 percent of the pork consumed in Ho Chi Minh City, the nation's Southern economic center.

The Vietnamese government said in a statement, "The risk of the virus spreading further is very high and the evolution of the outbreak is complicated." The statement also disclosed just how many provinces had been unsuccessful in identifying outbreaks and failed to segregate infected pigs properly, mainly because of a shortage of finances and space necessary for burying the deceased pigs.

The disease has also increased rapidly across bordering China. Affected animals have now been reported in every province in China, and the disease has also extended to Mongolia and Cambodia. In March, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization or FAO, advised Vietnam to proclaim the swine fever outbreak a national emergency.

Singapore Food Agency stated that Vietnam is not approved to export pork to the island city-state. However, China is on the agency's list of sanctioned pork exporting nations. While the virus is non-communicable to humans, it can spread by live or dead pigs, domestic or wild, and via pork products. Symptoms in animals include high fever, weakness, skin lesions, diarrhea, vomiting and difficulty breathing. Death can occur within a week of infection.

As of now, there is no cure or vaccine for the disease, and the only way to stop it is to remove all affected or exposed swine herds. If that occurs, there will not be enough remaining pork in the world to make up for the projected shortage in Chinese pork production.

According to China's National Bureau of Statistics, at least 129 outbreaks have been reported since African swine fever was first identified in August of 2018, diminishing China's hog population by some 40 million and leading to the slaughter of probably one million pigs.

Experts believe the number of discarded pigs and infection numbers have been significantly under reported.

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