Friday, January 04, 2019

ASF: When Pigs Float


Although the bulk of Taiwan sits between 60 and 90 miles off the Chinese mainland, the Republic of China does exercise political control over two groups of tiny islands (Kinmen & Wuqiu) that lie much closer to the mainland. 
The Kinmen islands (aka Quemoy Islands), in particular, are positioned just offshore; only 2 km east of the mainland city of Xiamen, in Fujian Province. 
Yesterday it was announced that a pig carcass - discovered on a beach in Kinmen on Monday - had tested positive for the ASF virus.  This from Focus Taiwan:
Dead Kinmen hog tests positive for African swine fever
2019/01/03 17:44:24 
Taipei, Jan. 3 (CNA) Test results conducted on a pig carcass found in Taiwan's offshore Kinmen County came back positive for African swine fever (ASF), the Council of Agriculture (COA) confirmed Thursday.

The dead hog was found Monday on a beach in Kinmen County's Jinsha Township by Coast Guard personnel just kilometers away from China's southeastern coast, raising concerns that the outbreak of ASF in China could spread to Taiwan.

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While initial media reports weren't clear whether the dead hog had floated from the mainland or was indigenous to the island, a Taiwan COA announcement yesterday left little doubt as to their conclusions:
Chinese mainland sea drifting Golden Gate pigs, detected African porcine viral DNA positive
Document number: 8172
Release date: 108-01-03
Release unit: Animal and Plant Epidemic Prevention and Quarantine Bureau

The Agriculture Committee of the Executive Yuan said today (3) that a dead pig that drifted ashore was found on the shore of Tianpu, Jinsha Town, Jinmen County. It was sampled by the Jinmen County Animal and Plant Epidemic Prevention Institute and sent to the Animal Health Laboratory of the Agricultural Committee.
In this test, the African swine fever virus nucleic acid was detected positively today, and the gene fragment was 100% similar to the isolate strain in mainland China. In addition to the wind direction of Jinmen County and past experience, the pig should only drift from mainland China.
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As discussed several times in the past (see below), China's farmers have - on occasion - resorted to the clandestine dumping of diseased livestock into rivers and lakes rather than reporting outbreaks to local officials.
  • In February 2016 several badly decomposed chicken carcasses were found on local beaches of Hong Kong (presumably dumped upstream the Pearl River in Guangdong Province) that tested positive for the avian H5 virus (see Hong Kong: Another H5N6 Positive Chicken Carcass).
  • In previous years (2009-2012) we'd seen numerous similar reports - albeit with the H5N1 virus - of badly decomposed poultry carcasses washing up on the beaches of Hong Kong.
  • But perhaps most famously, in 2013 - in Shanghai Govt.: Thousands Of Dead Pigs Retrieved From River - we saw reports of as many as 3,000 pig carcasses dumped in the Huangpu river - a tributary of the Yangtze - that provides many of the 23 million residents of Shanghai with their drinking water.
Today, Taiwan's Coast Guard reports a second pig carcass washed up on the beaches of the Kinmen Islands, raising concerns that the virus could spread to local pigs.

Sea patrol news
The discovery of pigs on the banks of the Golden Gate, the sea patrol, emergency disinfection, notification, epidemic prevention

On the (4th) day, the 9th shore patrol team of the Golden Horse Department Branch found a dead pig in the north of the Golden Gate. The pig was about 90 cm long and 30 cm high. The appearance was rotten and was smashed. Food phenomenon. The security check-up staff immediately pulled up the blockade line, disinfected the pig body and the surrounding shore, and simultaneously notified the Jinmen County Epidemic Prevention Bureau.
At the time of the outbreak of African swine fever in the mainland, the patrol agency launched an anti-epidemic mechanism. In order to avoid the spread of the epidemic caused by dead pigs in the sea, in addition to strengthening the density of patrols on the shore, the scope of patrols on the sea was further expanded. For the discovery of the pig body on the shore of Wuqiu today, there is no pig farm on Xiaoqiu Island. The research should be carried out by sea drifting. The sea patrol colleagues have informed the epidemic prevention personnel to do follow-up treatment.

The maritime patrol agency said that it will strengthen the treatment of the sea drift and expand the quarantine control. According to the instructions of the 2nd meeting of the Central Hunger Disaster Response Center of Africa, continue to face the epidemic with the highest standards and implement with the most rigorous attitude. All kinds of epidemic prevention work, preferring to do more, not less, and to prepare for the long-term war of resistance, must make the epidemic prevention work do not leak, and ensure that the epidemic is blocked outside the country.

Aside from the obvious concern that infected carcasses could spread the ASF virus to neighboring countries, these also reports raise questions over just how thorough surveillance and reporting of ASF really is on the on the mainland.
Although Fujian province reported two outbreaks of ASF in December (in Nanping and in Youxi County), both were located more than 100 miles north, and well inland, from where these pig carcasses have appeared. 
Today, Taiwan's Premier Lai Ching-te has called for an all-out effort to combat the threat from African Swine Fever (see govt.  links below).