BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 7, 2019– The Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) has issued an advisory on African Swine Fever (ASF). Not to be confused with swine flu, ASF poses no risk to human health, but can significantly impact the economy.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), “African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious haemorrhagic viral disease of domestic and wild pigs, which is responsible for serious economic and production losses.”
The BAHA advisory began by explaining the importance of the swine industry as a contributor to the agricultural growth of Belize. “Pork is a vital source of protein and contributes to food security and to the livelihood of many commercial and small pig farmers, and by extension to many others in the supply chain. The consumption per capita in Belize is approximately 12 lbs as an estimated 30,000 pigs are slaughtered annually,” the advisory said.
The advisory said that Belize has historically been free from ASF, and an introduction of the disease would no doubt result in massive economic losses due to direct and indirect damages to the industry. There has been an outbreak of the disease which is spreading rapidly, already killing over a million pigs in Africa, Europe, Russia, and Asia.
BAHA said that due to this outbreak they are implementing the following precautionary measures: continuing to prohibit the use of food wastes/leftovers from international airports and seaports; encouraging swine farmers not to use swine swill for the feeding of pigs; a temporary ban on pigs and pork products originating from ASF-infected countries as listed by OIE; collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture to continue with a public awareness campaign throughout the country; encouraging the general public to report the smuggling of pig and pork products to BAHA; and encouraging pig farmers to strengthen their Pig Farm Biosecurity Measures.
The release said that ASF causes high fever, loss of appetite, and hemorrhages in the skin and internal organs of an infected animal. On average, death follows between 2-10 days after the onset of the infection and mortality can be as high as 100%. BAHA encourages farmers and owners of pig herds to report the disease if they observe it in their pig(s).
The release explained that the disease does not affect humans, so it is safe to consume Belizean pork and pork products.