Through the tests conducted by the USDA Plum Island labs within the animal health cooperation agreement with the Dominican Republic (DR) government, the USDA confirmed the first african swine fever contaminations in the island the last week of July 2021.
The news fuels concerns that the ASF disease could move to the US; the DR is only about 700 miles from the Florida coast. Until now, the Americas had been free from ASF since 1978, when the desease affected several Caribbean islands. The whole Dominican pig herd had to be culled at this previous outbreak.
The positive tests came from two farms in two separate and small producing provinces (Sánchez Ramírez and Montecristi) of the Caribbean country. The Dominican Republic’s pig herd is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 million heads, while the provinces (states) where the ASF was detected only have 15.000 and 4600 heads respectively.
The US right now (and for a long time) has not allowed pork imports from the Dominican Republic as a result of another existing disease (pig flu), but this raises concern because ASF is very contagious, and it can spread in dried pork like sausage and ham. The constant flow of Dominicans who live or visit the US makes hard to prevent smuggled hams and sausage from entering the US in commercial flights. Additional, the DR shares the island with the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti, with porous borders and lot of ilegal immigration. This is certainly something to beware of as there is also a lot of Haitians flying to the US regularly.
The DR military are woking on keeping the infected areas isolated in terms of food transportation, while the US Customs have enhanced the control on passengers and cargo coming from the island.
Other central American countries like Belice, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, and Mexico were alerted by the regional animal health OIRSA to increase control on pork trade and customs.
The potential risk of Dominican Republic African Swine Fever outbreak to the US pork industry
In the video messaged published last week, Sonny Pardue, USDA’s head warned what is at stake if the ASF contaminates the US pig farms:
- The pork industry in the US is valued at $20 billion dollars
- Some 500.000 direct jobs depend on the pig meat industry
- The US produces over 25 million pounds of pig meat per year, coming from 120 million hogs