Malaysia safe for now, but more precautions needed to ward off swine fever, says group

African swine fever is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Pig farmers have been advised not to feed their livestock any leftover food from outside sources to prevent the contagion of African swine fever (ASF), as Southeast Asian countries cull millions of animals in a bid to stop the infection.

Jeffrey Ng, president of the Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Associations of Malaysia, said leftover feed from restaurants or unknown sources might be contaminated with meat illegally brought in from affected countries like China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea.

“Even though the virus is not contagious to humans, if there is a breakout here, farmers will be affected. People will stop buying the meat.

“It is better to take precautions and feed the pigs from their own sources rather than to get food from an outside source,” Ng told FMT.

Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Sim Tze Tzin recently assured Malaysians that locally bred pigs are free of the virus which has swept across China and several neighbouring countries in the region.

However, he warned that there could be an outbreak if farmers fail to take preventive measures.

ASF is harmless to humans but fatal to pigs. It was discovered in China in August last year, where it led to more than 1.2 million pigs being culled.

The global price of pork soared soon after as China is home to nearly half of the world’s pigs.

There is no vaccination for the fever, which causes pigs to internally haemorrhage until they die. The only option to contain the disease is to kill contaminated animals.

Some estimates say that in China, up to 200 million animals may eventually be slaughtered. The virus can last for several weeks and is easily transferable through anything from clothes to vehicles.

At the moment, Thailand appears to serve as a buffer zone for Malaysia.

But Ng said sometimes people smuggle pork products from affected countries into Malaysia, which could infect the pigs through leftover food.

“We hope people will be good citizens and not bring in these products until the virus is cleared,” he said, adding that the virus does not die even if the meat has been cooked at high temperatures.

The veterinary department meanwhile assured that piggeries in Malaysia are free from ASF, with inspections of eight commercial establishments showing no sign of the virus to date.

Its director-general Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said early measures to prevent the entry of pigs and pork-based products from suspect countries began in November last year.

In a statement, he said six countries have been placed on the import ban list: China (Nov 12), Poland and Belgium (Jan 17), Thailand and Vietnam (Jan 23) and Cambodia (April 4).

At the country’s borders, the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services (Maqis) has inspected and seized pork-based products from suspect countries at both KLIA and klia2.

“From Nov 12 to date, 180 samples of pork meat and pork-based products were taken at Westport and Pasir Gudang ports, and our land border with Thailand in Bukit Kayu Hitam. None of the samples returned positive for ASF,” he said.

A total of 35 samples from wild boars in six states were taken and returned negative for ASF as well.

Quasa said a multi-agency effort to counter ASF was held with the department, the agricultural ministry, Maqis, Malaysia Airports, the transport ministry and the forestry department to test their readiness in detecting ASF on Feb 22 this year.

“They were also given contingency plans on how to handle ASF in the event that it spreads to Malaysia. As of now, the country remains free from ASF.”