Taiwan seized smuggled meat products from Vietnam that tested positive for the African swine fever for the first time. The authorities immediately investigated the source and the flow of the contaminated products. Facing a severe test, the Council of Agriculture (COA, 農委會) urgently launched measures to "prevent African Swine Fever" (防堵非洲豬瘟) and said that Taiwan must comprehensively improve epidemic prevention. People are worried about whether African swine fever can be transmitted to humans? What happens when virus-infected pork products are eaten accidentally? How to deal with meat of unknown origin? "New Immigrants’ Global News Network" organizes related questions and answers for the readers' reference.
The whole of Taiwan prevents African swine fever and protects Taiwanese pigs. Photo/provided by the Council of Agriculture
- What is African swine fever?
African swine fever was first discovered in Kenya, Africa in 1921. It is an acute and highly contagious viral disease characterized by a short period of sickness but with high mortality rate. It spread from wild boars to domestic pigs, and then from Africa to Europe, South America, Russia, and other places, then it spread to mainland China in 2018.
- What is the route of transmission of African swine fever?
African swine fever can be spread through many ways, including food waste, ticks, pig secretions or excrement, vehicles carrying infected pigs or food waste, clothing and shoes, meat products, etc. The survival time of the African swine fever virus in frozen pork can reach 1,000 days, 100 days in refrigerated pork, 30 days in pig pens, and 11 days in feces.
- What are the symptoms in pigs after being infected?
The infected pigs will have high fever, purple spots on the skin, and internal organ bleeding, especially the lymph nodes, kidneys, and intestinal mucosa as the most obvious. If pigs are infected with African swine fever, the sickness and mortality rate is as high as 100%.
- Can African swine fever be treated?
At present, there is no vaccine to prevent African swine fever and no medicine to treat it. Pig farms with cases of African swine fever must be completely culled.
- Can people be infected with African swine fever? What happens to people who eat pork infected with African swine fever?
The African swine fever virus cannot be transmitted to humans, and the virus cannot replicate inside the human body. The COA pointed out that Taiwan’s pigs that have passed the slaughter hygiene inspection are stamped with the inspection mark on the pigs’ skin for consumers to see. When buying pork in the market, consumers only need to look for the quality test mark when buying pork products.
People are reminded not to bring meat products into the country and not to buy meat products online. Photo/provided by the Council of Agriculture
- How should the public prevent African swine fever?
People are not allowed to bring any meat products into Taiwan. Those who have been to epidemic areas or who have come into contact with livestock, poultry, and animals in the epidemic area, must clean, bathe and change clothes after returning to Taiwan. They can only enter the pig farms or pig feeding lots after at least one week, to ensure the health and safety of domestic livestock.
- What are the penalties for bringing in pork related products to Taiwan in violation of regulations?
Within these 3 years, travelers who illegally bring in pork products into the country in violation of African swine fever prevention regulations will be fined NT$200,000 for the first violation, and NT$1 million for the second and succeeding violations. If meat is imported in violation of regulations, the maximum penalty is 7 years in prison and a fine of NT$3 million.
- Is the proper handling of food waste the key to preventing African swine fever?
There are still a few domestic pig farms in the country that use food waste to raise pigs. The virus is likely to be spread through food waste. Therefore, the food waste should be steamed at a high temperature to a core temperature of 90°C for at least 1 hour before it can be used to feed pigs and implementation of food waste heating treatment can further reduce the risk of African swine fever.
- What should I do if I find pork products of unknown origin?
If pork products of unknown origin are found, the public can send them to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine or to the Animal Protection Office. If they are to be disposed of, they can dispose of them as “general waste". Do not throw them into food waste bins to avoid going into livestock farms and causing an outbreak of the epidemic. If people shop on a mainland China website and receive a gift of meat products with an unknown source, these should also be sent to the nearest branch of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine for investigation.