A shipment of pork dumplings exported from China to the Philippines has been found to be infected with a highly contagious virus that can quickly devastate livestock populations. Known as African swine fever (AFS), the fatal disease can kill a pig within just a few days, but produces no effects in humans.
In a statement released over the weekend, the Philippine Bureau of Customs announced that the shipment had been intercepted at Manila North Harbor on December 11, after officials noticed that it lacked a sanitary permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry.
After being sent for analysis, the dumplings were found to contain the ASF virus, and will now be buried to ensure that the pathogen is not unleashed. Unlike classical swine fever, which is caused by a separate virus, ASF has no vaccine or cure, meaning that outbreaks can only be halted by taking drastic measures such as culling huge numbers of pigs.
First detected in Africa in the early-20th century, the virus has since spread around the world, with the Philippines experiencing its first outbreak in July of last year. The following month, officials ordered the culling of all pigs within a 1-kilometer (0.62-mile) radius of the farm to which the outbreak was traced, although news reports suggest that many local farmers refused to kill or hand over their animals.
Animal rights groups including PETA later claimed that pigs were being inhumanely killed, with suggestions that some of the animals were being buried alive, although agriculture officials have denied these accusations.
ASF can be transmitted by contact with infected pigs, as well as food products made from any animal carrying the disease. The virus can also survive on clothes and other items that it may have come into contact with, to be passed on to another animal at a later date.
Though humans are not affected by the virus, they can carry it and therefore contribute to its spread. Once a pig becomes infected, it may experience a range of symptoms, including high fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, and vomiting, with death usually occurring a few days later. According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, mortality rates are thought to be as high as 100 percent.