February 2, 2023

A task force aimed at combating African swine flu should be formed per town as a proactive measure against the deadly swine disease, according to the Benguet Provincial Veterinary Office.

Provincial Veterinarian Miriam Tiongan said there should be a group in the respective municipalities that would focus on the prevention, response, and regular updates regarding ASF.

“As early as now, there should be a group or task force dedicated to ASF or that should be attached to any existing groups in the municipal level,” Tiongan said.

The province recently led the two-day contingency plan review for ASF attended by municipal agricultural offices, livestock inspectors, Department of Agriculture, Benguet State University College of Veterinary personnel, as well as representatives from the different feeds and drug companies with their technicians at the Capitol on Oct. 10.   

She said government personnel as far as Ifugao and Mountain Province also attended to learn from their activity.

A simulation for the actual sampling of hog meat and treatment of infected swine were also conducted during the activity at the DA-Cordillera office the following day.

Tiongan said while there are no cases of ASF in the province, she said their office remains on alert status. Recently, the office has acquired 28 pieces of body bags especially created to handle hog meat in cases of the infection reaching the local swine industry.

“The body bags are needed to transfer dead swine from areas that have no available spaces to bury them,” she said.

The provincial veterinarian said with the national attention being given to ASF, it has brought out vigilance of the community as reports coming from the locals are reaching their office.

On Sept. 23, six bodies of dead three month-old pigs were found dumped in a creek in Itogon, Benguet.

Tiongan said results from the Animal Disease Diagnostic Reference Laboratory of the Bureau of Animal Industry central office declared the samples as uninfected with ASF.

She suspects that the dead animals were dumped by hog raisers from neighboring areas of the town.

Also part of the proactive measures done by the provincial veterinary office is the continuing operation of the quarantine checkpoints in various entry points to Benguet.

Since Sept.4, 35 shipments of swine and 27,361 kilograms of pork meat and assorted meat products were intercepted by quarantine inspectors in different entry points in the province.

On Oct. 8, 600 kilograms of pork meat products without permits were also intercepted in Sablan as reported by the police in coordination with the provincial veterinarian.

Tiongan said the ASF virus is not transferrable to humans, thus making pork meat safe. The ASF has a mortality rate of 100 percent, meaning it could wipeout the whole pig population in an infected area.

Efforts to remind the public of the safety of eating local pork from hog raisers and meat traders, especially in Baguio City, were strengthened with the recent staging of the lechon festival in the city. – Ofelia C. Empian