They nickname it 'the ebola of the pigs' and they do not exaggerate. African swine fever is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease for which there is no cure or vaccine and which has a mortality rate close to 100%: pigs bleed inside to death. As its name suggests, the virus that causes it is endemic in some areas of Africa, but its resistance – it can survive 104 days in frozen meat and up to six years to five degrees – the ease with which it spreads – a drop of infected blood contains up to 50 million viruses and one is enough to infect a pig-, and globalization has facilitated its spread throughout the world. Now, in Asia it has caused the greatest animal epidemic in history.
China detected the first outbreak in August of last year and, since then, the virus – which does not affect humans – has spread across the country and has crossed its borders to also provoke a scab in neighboring Vietnam. According to the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), African swine fever also affects Mongolia, North Korea and Cambodia to a lesser extent. In total, more than three million pigs have died or have had to be slaughtered.
IN ITS CONTEXT:
million is the number of pigs that are raised in China, more than half of all the pigs in the world.
- Deadly disease
African swine fever, also called 'swine ebola' is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease with a mortality close to 100%.
euros for each dead animal is the price that the Chinese Government will pay the farmers, who will also subsidize them to buy new animals.
- Complicated solution.
Many farms are small – less than 500 animals – and rudimentary, which complicates their isolation and disinfection and increases the risk of infection.
- Climbing the prices.
The price of pork has skyrocketed around 40% globally. And it is not the only one. The sale of the rest of the meats has also increased by around 8%.
The effects are being devastating, and FAO warns that the situation can get even worse if the epidemic spreads to other vulnerable countries in Southeast Asia. Thailand and Laos could be the following. The controls that are being carried out are not enough, and the farmers are reluctant to report outbreaks that can affect their animals, because that entails the sacrifice of the entire hut and economic losses that can leave them in ruins. To avoid this, China has announced more generous aid – 1,200 yuan (155 euros) for each dead animal – and subsidies for the purchase of new pigs. But the tension in the sector is maximum.
"The world has never faced an epidemic as dangerous, difficult, complex, and expensive as this one," Vietnamese Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong said last week. And, undoubtedly, its effects are already felt all over the world: the price of pork globally has shot up around 40%, and different institutions predict that it will continue to rise at least until next year . As a result of the decline in production in the affected countries, which can reach 30% this year, the rest of the meats have already become more expensive at around 8%.
Although Vietnam has carried out the largest number of sacrifices -1.7 million, according to the FAO, the biggest problem is in China, a country in which there are about 440 million pigs, more than half of all those that are in the world. Christine McCracken, specialist in the market of meat of the Dutch financial entity Rabobank, estimates that the Asian giant has already lost 22% of the pigs and predicts that, due to the inefficiency of the measures adopted so far, China will be forced to sacrifice up to 200 million pigs this year. If this is reached, the world could face a food crisis similar to that caused by the climate crises that affect grain crops.
Unfortunately, the solution is not simple. Bloomberg recalled the case of Spain last Wednesday, noting that it took 35 years since the introduction of strict sanitary measures and aid from the European Union to eradicate the disease in 1995. The US chain added that the Italian island of Sardinia has been four decades trying to do away with the virus and that his pig hut is a small fraction of China's. Not in vain, it is the dimensions of the most populated country in the world that exponentially multiply the risk, because getting rid of pigs properly is complicated and can even provoke an environmental crisis.
It happened in 2013, when more than 16,000 pigs appeared floating in the Huangpu River, at the height of Shanghai. The analyzes showed that they were infected by the porcine circovirus, and several cattle ranchers who were arrested recognized that they had been thrown into the water to avoid being forced to slaughter all the cattle from their farms. Although now the Chinese authorities have tightened regulations and punishments, the fact that many farms are small – of less than 500 animals – and rudimentary complicates their isolation and disinfection, something that further increases the risk of contagion to the rest of the farms . As if that were not enough, even if the epidemic is contained among domestic pigs, feral pigs pose a much more difficult danger to control.
Lack of employee hygiene and contaminated food
Chinese epidemiological studies collected by FAO in its latest update of the situation point to three main causes in the rapid expansion of the epidemic: 46% of infections are due to lack of hygiene among employees of farms and vehicles that they use, they are rarely disinfected; 34% is related to the food that the animals receive, mostly from kitchen waste and other waste that may be contaminated; and 19% is attributed to the transport of pigs, which are taken for long distances in conditions as deplorable as they are dangerous.
(tagsToTranslate) apocalypse (t) swine (t) devastates (t) asia