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Mar 7, 2019

BAHA on High Alert Following African Swine Fever Outbreak in Asia, Africa, Europe

The Belize Animal and Health Authority has put in place precautionary measures to protect the country from African swine fever. It is a highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease of domestic and wild pigs, which is responsible for serious economic and production losses. Vast areas of the Eastern hemisphere are being affected with forty-five countries reporting outbreaks. The disease is not present in Belize and BAHA wants to keep it that way as it can have devastating effects on the swine industry. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.


Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

It is a highly contagious viral pig disease. There is no vaccine for it and the mortality rate can be as high as one hundred percent. The African swine fever affects domestic and wild pigs and is wreaking havoc in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Forty-five countries are reporting spreading infections and more than a million pigs have died.


Dr. Miguel DePaz, Director of Animal Health, B.A.H.A.

“There has been a surge of this disease in 2016 in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Countries have killed over a million pigs so the disease is really devastating. The virus is highly contagious. It kills a lot of pigs and those that it doesn’t kill; you have to kill them because they become a source of the infection. They become reservoirs.”


When a pig contracts the African swine fever it begins suffering from loss of appetite, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, swelling in the joints and skin hemorrhages. While the disease does not affect humans directly, the fear lies on the crippling economic effects it can have on a country. The virus poses a threat to international trade. In Belize, the swine industry is considered an important economic contributor to agricultural growth.


Miguel DePaz

Dr. Miguel DePaz

“Pork is a big industry in Europe. Europeans eat more than seventy pounds of pork per capita. In the case of Belize, we are around twelve pounds per capita. We slaughter about thirty thousand pigs per year. It is an important industry for Belize and if it was to come it would have devastating effects.”


Belize does imports pork-related products. The virus is resistant in processed meat and incredibly so in the environment.


Dr. Miguel DePaz

“Christmas time we import lot ham and picnics and if were to import those products from an infected country that could be a threat because the virus survives smoke meats. We are an importing country. We do import a lot of pork. We do special parts of the pig, the pork bellies we do import that too. So if we are to import that from an infected country that would be a source of infection.”


The threat is real and with the way the world’s transportation system operates, it’s closer than you might want to believe.


Dr. Miguel DePaz

“The disease is over a great area, Africa, Asia, Europe. We must realize that a plane can be here in nine. So that is how fast a virus can move. So despite saying that those countries are far away, in reality in terms of time that virus can be here tomorrow.”


It is for this reason that the Belize Agriculture and Health Authority is ramping up precautions to protect domestic pigs and the industry. Director of Animal Health at B.A.H.A., Dr. Miguel DePaz, says that Belize is taking a proactive approach in dealing with the threat. Dr. DePaz says that precautionary measures, including the strengthening of quarantined control points, are being put in place to prevent the introduction of the disease in the country. BAHA along with the Ministry of Agriculture has embarked on a public awareness campaign throughout the country. Two meetings with pig farmers in the north and west have been held.


Dr. Miguel DePaz

“We must realize that is not only the farmers who have a role to play. It is everyone in general. They ordinary person that goes over the border and bring in stuff, they could not be bringing in African swine fever this time but any other disease. So we do have control for the general public.”


Pig farmers are being encouraged to strengthen their big farm bio-security measures. All suspected cases must be reported immediately to BAHA. A temporary ban on pigs and pork products originating from ASF infected countries has been implemented. Again, African swine fever does not affect humans. It is safe to consume Belizean pork and pork products. Hipolito Novelo, News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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