Hong Kong to cull 900 pigs in wake of deadly swine fever outbreak

More than 900 pigs are set to be culled in Hong Kong after authorities detected the presence of the deadly African swine fever (ASF) in animals at a licensed farm in the New Territories district.

Authorities at the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said 19 of 30 pigs tested at the farm had swine fever and that transportation of pigs from the farm had been immediately suspended. The culling will start early next week, the agency said. 

“AFCD staff has arranged to inspect the other eight pig farms within three kilometers (two miles) of the index farm and will collect samples for ASF testing,” the AFCD said in a statement.

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“Pork cooked thoroughly is safe for consumption. Members of the public do not need to be concerned.”

The disease can be fatal for pigs as soon as a week after infection. It is not harmful to humans and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans, according to the Dept. of Agriculture.

ASF has never been reported in the United States. If it is detected here, approximately 76 million domestic pigs will be susceptible to this disease, according to the Dept. of Agriculture.

The news comes after Hong Kong culled 5,600 pigs last month at a farm near the mainland China border. 

Nearly 34,000 pigs in Italy were culled to counter the spread in September. The disease also swept to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania and Serbia. There have also been multiple reports of ASF cases in wild boar in these countries, according to the European Food Safety Authority.

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An outbreak in 2018-19 rocked the $ 250 billion global pork market and about half the domestic pig population died in China, the world’s biggest producer. It caused China losses estimated at more than $ 100 billion.

The outbreak also spread to other Asian countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, North Korea and South Korea, as well as Hong Kong.

Last year, Vietnam successfully produced the first vaccine against African swine fever. It was co-developed by Vietnamese companies and researchers from the United States and two million doses were shipped to the Philippines in October.

It comes as the first human case of the swine flu strain H1N2 was detected in the United Kingdom, late last month. One case was detected in Michigan over the summer after a person came into contact with an infected pig at an agricultural fair, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

An H1N1 influenza outbreak in 2009 caused at least 18,500 laboratory-confirmed human deaths. 

Greg Norman contributed to this report.

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