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It’s ASF, not HSF

By Jeck G. Tirambulo | Features Editor

Vol. XCI No. 8

Oct. 4, 2019

Just like how the public once feared the spread of HIV/AIDS through consumption of contaminated fish, misconceptions have surfaced again. This time, it’s about the African Swine Fever (ASF).

Several consumers have raised their concerns after the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), William Dar, confirmed the existence of ASF in the country. This was after a number of dead pigs were observed in some backyards located near Manila. Since our country is known to be one of the top hog producing countries in the global scale, the presence of ASF was considered a huge threat to the swine industry. Furthermore, pork meat consumers themselves, particularly questioned the safety of the meat that they are consuming, implying that the causal agent of ASF might also contaminate humans. The Malacañang Palace nevertheless, pressured the DA to contain the ASF by culling the infected hogs.

ASF is a highly contagious disease caused by a DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family. It is responsible for the economic loss and production decline of the swine industry. Its origin dates back in Africa (hence the name) and some areas in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. Since then, it has also been observed to have spread across Asia. It is a transboundary disease (it moves across boundaries) that possesses high environmental resistance. It can spread by domestic or wild pigs–be it alive or dead pigs, pork products, and contaminated feeds, equipment, and other non-living things that the virus has come in contact with. Perhaps what makes the ASF alarming is the absence of vaccines and antiviral medicine that can eliminate or prevent it. The only method that can halt its spread is through tightened biosecurity measures and culling the infected pigs (including burying them alive).

As scary as it may sound but it is really unnecessary for some consumers to worry if ASF will also infect them by eating infected meat products. ASF is known to only infect pigs (swine); hence, the ‘swine fever.’ The possibility of eating infected pork is also low (unless one buys from an illegal source) because the meat products that are being sold in the market (for example in Dumaguete City) have undergone a strict and meticulous process before reaching there. Before live pigs are slaughtered, they go through a process of checking if they are sick or not by the city veterinarian. Once they have been proven to be healthy and ready to slaughter, the process of slaughtering also follows strict protocols to ensure quality meat products. It does not end there. The meat products are once again checked and verified by the meat inspectors from the National Meat Inspection Services (NMIS) to ensure that the meat products were not contaminated during slaughter, and one can see the NMIS stamps on the sold meat. Lastly, even if one managed to consume ASF infected meat, there is not a case yet that proves its consumption can infect humans.

The rigorous process that meat products have gone through before reaching your table, along with the fact that the virus itself does not infect humans, is proof enough for consumers to stop the unnecessary fear. The reason why several government agencies have tightened the measures (even banning meat imports) is to prevent the ASF’s detrimental effects on the swine industry.

Continue eating those baby back-ribs that you really love.


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