China has contained the spread of African swine fever, with the number of new outbreaks slowing this year, according to Han Changfu, minister of agriculture and rural affairs.
Since the highly contagious disease was first detected in August in Liaoning province, 119 cases affecting domestic pigs and three involving wild boars have been confirmed in 30 provincial-level regions, he said at the International Symposium on Prevention and Control of African Swine Fever held in Beijing this week.
As of April 9, quarantines had been lifted in 108 disease-stricken areas, he said, adding that the number of new cases in each of the first three months of this year was held to single digits, signifying a slowdown.
Han added that domestic live hog production and pork supplies are generally stable.
Monique Eloit, director-general of the World Health Organization for Animal Health, said she appreciated China’s efforts in combating African swine fever, as the massive scale of hog production in the country and the dispersed breeding farms pose great difficulties.
She also encouraged the ministry to share its experience, tools and measures with other countries to enhance their capability to fight the disease.
Bukar Tijani, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, said it’s both surprising and encouraging to see the number of new outbreaks drop in China. He said the situation could have been much worse because China is responsible for more than half of global pork consumption, and more than half of the world’s small pig farms are located there.
Han said the ministry will continue to enhance international cooperation mechanisms, establish stronger early warning and rapid response systems and step up research on vaccines.
Vice-minister Yu Kangzhen added that the ministry will soon formulate a plan to divide the country’s hog industry into several zones to better coordinate efforts in containing infections, regulating cross-regional transport and guaranteeing the pork supply, China National Radio reported.
Hainan, the southernmost province, will set up the country’s first zone free of African swine fever, Yu said.
The disease, which is deadly to pigs but not harmful to people, was discovered in Kenya in 1921 and has since spread to 64 countries and regions.
Last year saw a surge in infections worldwide, with 25 countries and regions reporting more than 6,500 new outbreaks. There is no effective vaccine.