Second case of African swine fever found in pig in HK, sparking cull of 4,700 animals and closure of slaughterhouse

03-Jun-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

A government-owned slaughterhouse will be closed for the second time in a month from Friday night following the latest case of African swine fever, with 4,700 animals to be culled.

Health authorities detected the virus in a dead pig at Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse, health chief Sophia Chan Siu-chee said.

The pig had been imported from a farm in Meizhou city, Guangdong province.

The facility, which provides 80 per cent of the local pork supply, will be closed for the second time in a month. It was shut from May 11 to 18 in the first case.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

Chan, the secretary for food and health, said the government had asked the smaller, private Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse to remain open to ensure the supply of fresh pork, although the amount would be limited.

She did not say whether the operator had agreed to the request.

“When there is no reasonable explanation, it cannot stop slaughtering pigs. I think there is also a law,” she said.

The disease is not harmful to humans, but deadly to pigs. A huge outbreak of African swine fever in mainland China has resulted in more than a million pigs either dying from the disease or being culled since last August.

Chan said the pig was found dead on Friday at Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse with suspected symptoms of the disease. A tissue sample later tested positive for African swine fever.

The abattoir would be closed from Friday night for disinfection, which she said she hoped could be finished in four days.

“After the [first infection] we strengthened the inspections at the border. Vets were placed at Man Kam To [border checkpoint] to check every truckload of pigs. And upon their arrival at the slaughterhouse, vets were also there to check,” she said.

Chan said 4,700 pigs would be culled. She appealed to the industry which protested over the previous cull to cooperate, saying the move was in line with international practice.

Hui Wai-kin of the Pork Traders general Association said the latest closure would definitely affect traders’ livelihoods, but he refused to estimate how much the price of fresh pork would rise due to the limited supply from Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse.

Lawmaker Steven Ho Chun-yin, who represents the agriculture and fisheries sector, said it was important for the government to set out the role of Tsuen Wan Slaughterhouse in such an emergency situation, because it was hard for traders to sustain business. “We have to sell a pig at HK$8,000 [US$1,025] to sustain business and maintain cost, because we have to pay our staff, regardless of whether we close the slaughterhouse or not,” Ho said, adding that he would request a meeting with Chan on Monday or Tuesday.

He urged the government to slaughter all pigs by the end of each day to ensure the disease did not spread in the event of one animal being infected.

The city’s first case was confirmed three weeks ago, prompting the government to order the cull of 6,500 pigs at Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse to prevent the spread of the virus. It was the biggest pig cull in more than 50 years, according to industry veterans.

In that case, a pig imported from Zhanjiang in Guangdong was infected, and the batch it was in had already been put on the market. The incident posed no health risk to humans, as thoroughly cooked pork is safe for consumption.

But pork traders lashed out at the government for ordering the first cull, asking officials to spare the animals unless they had tested positive for the virus. Traders stood guard overnight to prevent officials from entering the city’s main slaughterhouse to cull the pigs, which were believed to be safe for consumption.

The slaughterhouse blockade was later called off as health officials and pork traders reached a compensation agreement on future swine fever outbreak arrangements.

The Tsuen Wan facility also closed its doors.

Hong Kong imports about 4,000 pigs per day from the mainland. The previous case prompted mainland suppliers to suspend the export of all live pigs into the city for eight days.

African swine fever can be traced to Kenya, where it was first detected in domestic swine in 1921. According to a leading expert on the disease, Professor Dirk Pfeiffer of City University, it can be transmitted by warthogs and specific soft tick species, which in turn spread it to domestic pigs.



Category: Hong Kong

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