Fresh African Swine Fever Outbreak Hits China’s Xinjiang

Pigs are seen in a hog pen in a village in Linquan county in Anhui Province, China, on Aug. 31, 2018. (Chinatopix Via AP)
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BY EVA FU

China’s agriculture ministry on April 5 reported an outbreak of African swine fever in the Xinjiang region, marking the third occasion the region spotted cases since February.

The outbreak occurred on a farm with 599 pigs under Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a state-owned economic and paramilitary entity under U.S. sanctions over human rights abuses in the region.

Thirty-three pigs were infected and six died, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said in a statement. Local authorities have culled the remaining live pigs in the affected zone and halted transports of hog or related products in and out of the area.

African swine fever has plagued China since it emerged in the country in August 2018. The deadly disease forced China to cull millions of hogs and wiped out about 40 percent of the country’s pig stock, leading to widespread pork shortages and sending prices to skyrocket.

The virus has made multiple appearances in China’s mainland this year, including in southern Guangdong Province, southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan Province, and the central province of Hubei.

The recent rounds of swine fever outbreaks in China have slashed the hog population in northern China by at least 20 percent, various industry estimates found.

New Hope Liuhe, China’s fourth-largest producer, also found two new virus strains in January that had infected more than 1,000 hogs on their farms. As the virus could remain contagious for months and even years in some products, the discovery raised concerns of the new strains spreading to other parts of the world through contaminated meat.

GM Biotech, a privately-owned biotechnology firm based in Hunan that develops testing kits for the disease, said the new strains are “very difficult to detect at the initial stage of infection and have a longer incubation period after infection,” Reuters reported at the time.

Taiwan, which has so far remained intact from the disease, recently reported a dead pig infected with the African swine fever on the coast, prompting a round of herd testing around the area. The pig was washed ashore over the weekend and had the same virus strain matching the one circulating in China.

In late March, Chinese media also reported dozens of pig carcasses were found near Inner Mongolia. The cause of the deaths remains unknown.

In February, Hong Kong culled 3,000 herds in a farm after eight pigs tested positive for the African swine fever virus. Most of the infected pigs came from mainland China, according to Hong Kong officials.

Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast
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