SAN AGUSTIN, PILI, CAMARINES SUR – Christmas is in the air. So is African Swine Fever (ASF) which is recurring from time to time in the previously upgraded pink zones in Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

As pork lechon, ham and other pork dishes are the favorite Noche Buena food of many Bicolano families, the Department of Agriculture in Bicol is warning the consuming public to buy only meat from meat vendors who can show a Certificate of Meat Inspection or COMI or Meat Inspection Certificate. Or look for the seal of the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) on raw pork meats.

Para “Iwas perwisyo, iwas ASF.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), ASF virus can live for 105 days in raw ground pork, 30 days in smoked meat, 300 days in dried meat, 1,000 days in frozen pork meat, 182 days in salted meat, 110 days in chilled meat, 105 days in offal, 300 days in skin and fats of raw meat, 18 months in blood stains in refrigerators, 15 days in blood of infected hog and 11 days in manure of ASF affected hog.

Refrain from buying processed meat from ambulant vendors whose product source is not known, as the products might be coming from infected areas. Safe meats are those butchered at accredited slaughterhouses. For meat processors, do not buy meat from ASF-affected areas and do not process double-dead meat from a pig that has died of disease, particularly ASF. Maintain the cleanliness in the working area by regular cleaning and disinfection.

For the hog raisers, do not feed hogs with kitchen wastes as these might be contaminated with animal diseases such as ASF. A hog that has eaten food (swill) that is contaminated with ASF will surely get infected and it will infect not only the whole hog population in the farm but also those nearby piggeries within 1-kilometer radius.

Some hogs will not manifest symptoms of ASF until 4 to 19 days. According to the World Animal Health (WOAH), the incubation period of the ASF virus is 4-19 days. Some ASF-infected hogs show symptoms such as red, discolored skin or skin lesions, diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, difficulty breathing, heavy discharge from the eyes and nose, and loss of appetite. Infected hogs may die within 2 to 10 days, and oftentimes, mortality is 100% of all hog population.

If any of this happens or is observed in the piggery, immediately report to the Municipal Agriculture Office so that blood collection will be carried out by the municipal veterinarian or extension worker and the blood samples will be sent to the DA RFO 5 Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL) to identify the disease.

There is no cure for ASF yet. The least we can do is prevent it by observing strict biosecurity measures. Clean and disinfect the piggery every day using bleach. Do not let viajeros or other unauthorized persons inside the piggery. The Veterinary Quarantine Service has previously identified pick-up points of hogs along the national roads so that hog dealers or viajeros need not go to individual piggeries.

As of December 8, there is a reported ASF case in Bgy. Mabini, Libmanan, Camarines Sur. There are also positive cases in Bgy. Pawala and Tagbak in Donsol, Sorsogon; and Bgy. Umabay Exterior in Mobo, Masbate. Surveillance, cleaning and disinfection are being carried out in these areas.

In Camarines Norte, 17 barangays from seven towns namely: Daet, Labo, Basud, Mercedes, Vinzons, Paracale, and San Vicente have ASF cases.

Some 178 hogs owned by 45 hog raisers were depopulated by the respective LGUs and Provincial Veterinary Offices from November 14, 2023 to December 6, 2023.

On November 30, 2023, DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla sent the DA Regional Quick Response Team headed by Regulatory Division Chief, Rosita Imperial to Daet, Camarines Norte to establish an ASF Command Center for two weeks to help in the depopulation, surveillance, cleaning and disinfection and establishment of animal checkpoints. The RQRT also had a dialogue with Governor Ricarte Padilla, Vice Governor Joseph Ascutia, Provincial Veterinarian Ronaldo Diezmo, and the Municipal Agriculturists of the 12 towns of Cam. Norte. Dr. Alex Templonuevo, NMIS Regional Director also provided disinfectants and carried out the disinfection of slaughterhouses in affected municipalities.

Since 2021, the indemnification program for ASF-affected hogs was transferred to the Philippine Crops Insurance Corporation (PCIC). Under the PCIC Livestock Insurance Program, RSBSA-listed swine raisers are qualified to insure for free and to receive indemnification of up to P14,500 per head for swine breeder (1-10 head maximum) and up to P10,000 for swine fattener (1-20 heads maximum).

The DA is implementing the Bantay ASF sa Barangay or BABay ASF program in collaboration with the Local Government Units that are mandated to enact and implement local ordinances to prevent and control ASF.

All sectors of society – the consumers, hog raisers, meat vendors, viajeros, and the LGUs – have vital roles in the prevention and control of ASF. (Lovella P. Guarin – RAFIS 5) Photo courtesy of NMIS 5