Mass Pig Slaughter to Fight Ebola Commences

PHILIPPINES - Health and Agriculture officials arrived at a Filipino farm yesterday to begin slaughtering around 6,000 pigs to prevent the spread of the Ebola-Reston virus.
calendar icon 2 March 2009
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Security was tight with police checkpoints set up in Bulacan province to prevent reporters from getting close to the farm where traces of the non-lethal virus had been detected.

To keep outsiders away police secured even houses near the farm, reports The Manila Times.

Eric Tayag, head of the National Epidemiology Center, told reporters that an electric stun gun would be used to kill the pigs after which the carcasses would be burned and then buried.

He said they expected to cull only about 500 pigs Sunday but hoped later to slaughter a thousand a day, to complete the process within a week.

Aircraft were prevented from flying over the farm, Tayag said as he turned down a request from a local television station to shoot the scene from the air.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the strain infecting the pigs is not dangerous to humans, unlike the four deadly Ebola subtypes found in Africa.

The government earlier imposed quarantine on two farms in Bulacan and Pangasinan provinces after samples found some pigs were carrying the Ebola-Reston strain, reports The Manila Times. It was later found that the spread of the virus was only continuing in the farm in Pandi town, Bulacan province.

The strain was first found in laboratory monkeys exported from the Philippines to the US in 1989.

So far, six farm workers and butchers have been found with the antibodies to Ebola-Reston and scientists are still trying to determine if the six caught the virus from pigs.

If such a link is proved it would be the first time humans have contracted the disease from pigs.

Meanwhile.... Public Seeks Assurance

The National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI) has assured the public of adequate supply of pork in the market amid threats of the virus.

In an interview on dzRB “Radyo ng Bayan,”, Mr Albert Lim, NFHFI president, said it is safe to eat pork and, despite reports that the virus is progressing, the supply chain is not affected.

He said despite the recent report of the virus progressing in Bulacan and Pampanga, farm-gate price of pork remains at P170 a kilo, indicating that the report has not affected the demand.

“The future is bright for the hog industry. The Philippines is a pork-eating country and Filipinos loves pork. Our pork is safe and the consumer can enjoy eating their favorite dish from pork,” he said.

While unfazed by the report that 6,000 swine in Bulacan had to be exterminated, Mr Lim also said the NFHFI is closely coordinating with several government agencies, led by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry, the Department of Health, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization concerning the ERV to prevent outbreak.

The NFHFI will seek an audience with concerned DA officials to know the mechanism for the indemnification of hog raisers affected by the virus, according to news agency BusinessMirror

“We are also asking our members in Bulacan to monitor their hogs and coordinate with the Bureau of Animal Industry to prevent possible outbreak,” he said.

Amid new threats brought about by the ERV, hog farmers are now busy preparing for the 18th Annual Hog Convention and Trade Exhibits from 23-25 April, which will be held at the World Trade Center in Pasay.

The annual event is the biggest and longest-running trade exhibition focusing on the hog industry. It aims to gather thousands of commercial and backyard hog raisers from all over the country. The gathering is free to the public and welcomes those who are thinking of setting up their own businesses.

This year’s theme, “Leading the Way to Self-sufficiency and Sustainability in Pork Production,” aims to provide participants with practical and technical know-how in ensuring the safety and profitability of swine farming.

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