Southeast Asian nations are taking precautions against the spread of African swine fever (ASF), which has been spreading rapidly throughout China since August.
The disease, which is harmless to humans but can’t be cured in pigs has crossed over into Vietnam, with 79 ASF outbreaks confirmed in February, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Vietnamese authorities and those in the pork industry are attempting to contain the further spread of the disease, which is reportedly still only limited to 17 provinces in the northern part of the country.
“We have implemented [preventative] measures in the villages and set up checkpoints,” said a veterinarian official in Hai Hau district, Nam Dinh province, in an interview with RFA’s Vietnamese Service.
The official explained several of the other precautions.
“We’ve done educational [campaigns] for pig raisers, and whenever there are signs of abnormality they have to inform [us]. We’ve also done preventative injections for all the pigs in the district and sterilized all their pens,” the official said.
The official also said that once slaughtered, the origin of the pigs must be certified.
Pig farmers all over the country are naturally worried about the possible spread of the disease.
The owner of a pig farm in Dong Nai province located in the south learned about the disease spreading in the north through state media, but noted that southern officials have not announced anything.
“I myself see that a lot of pork from the north is being transported into the south. This makes me so worried,” the farmer said.
But he said he is doing his part to keep ASF at bay, even though it can be expensive.
“On my part, I have intensified [our efforts] to sterilize the pens. I have to spend a lot on the sterilization chemicals, and no financial support has been announced. The government is talking a lot, but not [coming up with] feasible measures,” the farmer said.
RFA contacted two deputy chiefs of the Central Veterinary Department in Hanoi, but they refused to respond to questions on measures to help pig raisers prevent ASF.
The government has also taken measures to prevent rumors of the disease from spreading on social media.
Two Facebookers in Ca Mau City were summoned Thursday to make a written promise not to write any posts about ASF pork products, which authorities said was had not yet been found in the city.
This happened after another incident on Monday where the Central Internet Information Department fined another Facebooker 20 million dong (about U.S. $860) for posting warnings about ASF. The Facebooker had been ordered to post a correction the previous day.
‘We burn and bury pig products’
Meanwhile in Laos, which also shares a border with China, authorities are also taking precautions against possible outbreaks.
Border authorities in Saravane Province confiscated and destroyed 350 kilograms (772 pounds) of pork and pig intestines imported from Vietnam this week, enforcing a government order issued on Feb. 25.
“We burn and bury pig products we seize with white lime power, deep enough so the virus from the pork won’t survive,” said a border official to RFA’s Lao Service.
“We should destroy them completely otherwise it [the virus] will come back,” the official said.
He also warned the Vietnamese and Lao pig merchants not to try to bring Vietnamese pork into the country again, saying that they would be fined and criminally charged the next time they get caught.
An official from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry said that even if pork slips past the scrutiny of customs officials, it can still be confiscated by inspectors anywhere in the province, as well as in markets.
The official said he didn’t know how long inspections would continue, but said if he received word from his superiors or authorities in the affected countries where ASF is under control, he would stop them.
Pig imports banned
Cambodia, which shares a border with Vietnam, but not China, is also ramping up defenses against the spread of ASF.
Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and Agriculture has banned large-scale pig imports from neighboring countries and has urged the people not to consume pork.
In an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service, government spokesman Phay Siphan said on March 7, “When we receive any kind of lead that causes us to suspect it might be swine flu, we get to work right away. The [ministry] is monitoring the situation,” he said.
The spokesman was referring to a statement released by the ministry on Feb. 23 which said, “People should not eat any sick or dead pigs because they can get diseases.”
There was no mention of the overall ASF situation in Cambodia in that statement.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese, Lao, and Khmer Services. Translated by An Nguyen, Sydney Khotpanya, and Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.