FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
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Keeping Samoa safe from African Swine Fever

Local piggery in Samoa
17/02/2020 Apia, Samoa

African swine fever (ASF) is a contagious viral disease that affects pigs and wild boars with a near 100 percent fatality rate. ASF is not transmissible to humans hence; it is not a direct human health concern. However, this alarming disease has economically impacted Asia with millions of pigs culled in China and Vietnam in an effort to control the disease.

The threat of ASF reaching the Pacific is real despite the geographical distance of Samoa, and other Pacific countries have from ASF hotspots in Asia and Europe. FAO is supporting countries in the control and prevention of ASF including ASF preparedness and risk assessment missions.

Recognising the potential serious impact of AFS in the Pacific, the government of Samoa requested FAO to provide support for ASF preparedness to prevent the disease entering Samoa. In response, FAO is conducting an ASF risk assessment mission in Samoa from February 17 to 20, 2020.

Eriko Hibi, FAO Representative to the Pacific, warns the highly resistant nature of the virus and its ability to survive for long periods in meat products. “Samoa must boost biosecurity and border control measures and be vigilant with preventing such products being brought into the region,” says Hibi. FAO will therefore work closely with its partners in minimizing the threat posed by ASF for Samoa and the Pacific.

FAO will provide technical support for this mission in partnership with Massey University Dr Naomi Cogger and Dr Art Subharat in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. The mission will provide information on high risk and vulnerable areas for ASF introduction into, and transmission within Samoa and how these can be addressed to better safeguard the country.

In addition to the internal risk assessment mission, FAO recommends;

  1. Intensive biosecurity and customs control of passengers and their luggage;
  2. Warning signs should be placed clearly at the border/customs entry (including airports and sea ports) stating the consequences of bringing pork and pork products from ASF-infected countries/regions;
  3. Instructing passengers to discard pork products in designated disposal places or to hand over to the customs personnel;
  4. Good biosecurity on the farm; and
  5. Awareness and preparedness of in-country stakeholders, public and communities.  

 

These measures can assist in preventing ASF from getting introduced and/or becoming established in the country and/or on a farm.

Background

The ASF virus is highly resistant and can survive for long periods (months or even years) in faeces, meat products (frozen, salted and smoked or undercooked) and carcasses of dead animals. Wild boar and pigs can also infect each other by direct contact, particularly where blood is present. Healthy pigs can be infected when they consume undercooked infected pork products, while scavenging or when fed uncooked swill. They can also get infected through contact with contaminated objects such as shoes, tools and equipment. Currently there is no vaccine available to protect pigs against the disease.

ASF originally started in Africa in the 1920s but since 2007, the disease has steadily spread in Asia and Europe. ASF is not yet present in the Pacific; however, there is growing concern that the disease will reach the Pacific soon due to movement of people and pork products from ASF infected countries. Timor Leste, a country that is very close to some of the Pacific countries and to Australia, is now infected by ASF.