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Central America, Belize stepping up defense against Africa Swine Fever

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Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2021. 5:43 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Enterprise Jose Abelardo Mai says African Swine Fever is a severe threat.

Last week, Minister Mai was in El Salvador where he held meetings with OIRSA, the regional plant and animal health body, which updated regional leaders on the threat the African Swine Fever poses to the region.

“We attended a meeting, an update on the risk analysis for African Swine Fever in the Dominican Republic,” said Minister Mai. “Experts who went to the Dominican Republic and studied the case, made a risk analysis presentation to us.”

The African Swine Fever has decimated the pig population in the Dominican Republic and has affected Haiti as well. When an area is infested by the disease, the entire pig population has to be killed. That’s the only way to contain the disease from spreading. Because that means, losing all their pigs, many farmers for not report the disease and that causes further spreading.

Director of Animal Health Dr Miguel DePaz said the disease has 100% mortality and there is no vaccine to combat it. African Swine Fever, he said, is spread by a virus that is highly contagious. However, both he and Minister Mai said that it cannot be transmitted from animals to people.

“It is now across six continents. If we don’t take care of our borders, we will have it in Belize which would be horrible,” said Minister Mai.

“Central America’s has stepped up their defense. They are monitoring carefully flights originating from the Dominican Republic. Last week we found meat from the Dominican Republic at the airport in Panama. So, we know it can be brought in.”

“The African Swine Fever is spread from country to country by remains of food that are left behind in the airplanes. People take it and feed pigs with it and it starts from there. That is main source of transportation, meat that people take across; remains of food, burgers and sandwiches made from ham. African Swine Fever can live in ham meat for years,” Minister Mai explained.

The Belize pig industry is made up of 40,000 to 45,000 animals and is worth between $30 to $30.4 million presently.

“The industry provides 3,500 jobs on farms and slaughtering facilities, jobs that are desperately needed by rural families especially during this difficult time,” Mai said.

Mai said we have never had the disease in Belize but that if it were to enter it can have disastrous effects if it does.

BAHA Acting Managing Director Francisco Gutierrez said earlier that then African Swine Fever is not a disease we can live with but that containment is manageable. He said BAHA has protocols in place to contain the entry of different diseases and that in cases like this where there is the possibility of entry of African Swine Fever, they step up their containment procedures at all ports of entry. Moreover, Gutierrez said BAHA does not allow importation of pigs from countries that have cases of African Swine Fever.

To combat diseases like the African Swine Fever, international collaboration is necessary. To that end, the International Regional Agricultural Health Organization (OIRSA) director Fermin Blanco said OIRSA declared a regional emergency once the disease affected the Dominican Republic.

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