Dr. Paul Sundberg, US Executive Director and the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) responds to risks the presence of ASF in Dominican Republic and Haiti represents to the US pork industry, and especially to the neighboring island of Puerto Rico.
African Swine Fever in the DR update
The Dominican republic’s got africanswine feed the first time in 40 years, that it’s been identified in the western hemisphere.
There’s testing going on right nowtesting and response we’ve got to remember the Dominican Republic’s an independent country so the Usda or the United States can’t go down there and say here’s what you’re going to do, right, so it’s a collaborative effort between the countries.
In the DR there is testing going on right now. Usda has offered help they have a laboratory set up in the Dominican Republic that’s helping with their testing so they can do quick monitoring and surveillance.
The DR is involved in depopulation (culling pigs) of positive sites, so that’s ongoing. There’s work that’s happening there and Usda is helping to respond to the ASF infection.
The risk of ASF infection in Puerto Rico
One of the things that is very important for the USDA is what’s going on in protection of Puerto Rico and making sure in every way possible that there’s biocontainment on the island of Hispaniola (the Island that is shared by the Dominican Republic on the west and Haiti on the East). So it’s not just the Dominican Republic, but it’s also Haiti.
Haiti has officially acknowledged ASF infection in the country now, we can expect that it’s probably broadly spread on the island. Haiti is a failed country, and it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, so they are totally unable of controlling the ASF outbreaks, and the US and Canada will need to help them.
There are multiple more than half of the provinces in the Dominican Republic have tested positive, so that’s not really a surprise, but there’s assistance that’s happening. The US and Canada assistance is on diagnostics, control and in depopulation.
US Border, Custom and Port Controls to prevent ASF entering the US
The ports of entry are inspected. People coming from DR and Haiti are inspected. Customs and border protection does interdictions with people that are carrying sandwiches. Usda does interdictions with illegal meat products, all of those kinds of things are going on, so we’ve already worked on mitigating the risks.
The asf in the Dominican Republic doesn’t really change those risks, it doesn’t really change our mitigation, but what it does is probably puts more pressure on US borders because there’s Asf right next to us. That gives some more urgency, but the Usda is cooperating with the Dominican Republic and offering Haiti some supplies and some services, as well as offering support to the whole Caribbean area. It’s all about containing that virus on the island and then trying to eliminate it from the island to decrease the risk to Puerto Rico and the whole giant US pork industry.
Haiti has sent to the USDA’s Plum island lab many hundreds of samples for them to test. There’s a cooperative program. Haiti’s asked for that assistance and USDA has fully offered diagnostic assistance to the country.
When will the ASF infection be eradicated from Dominican Republic and Haiti?
It’s going to be a long haul because first you’ve got to identify infections, you’ve got to depopulate it, you’ve got to try to clean it up and the to repopulate with negative pigs, and keep them negative. It’s going to be a long haul on the island but we’re doing everything we can along with Canada and other countries that are offering help to the island to help control and help respond to the infection
The US mainland to be declared “ASF Protection Zone” for the US in case ASF reaches Puerto Rico
If ASF gets to Puerto Rico, the chief veterinary officer of the United States is is bound to notify OIE, the international organization of animal health, that there’s been an asf infection on a u.s territory.
But the Usda is putting into place through the OIE an application for an “ASF Protection Zone”. A protection zone is an internationally recognized procedure that a country can say that this area of the country or territory is at an imminent risk of infection and there are measures in place to isolate the risk to the infected region.
Puerto Rico is still negative, but if ASF outbreaks appear in the Island, the mainland US could be protected by this “Protection Zone” status. But if Puerto Rico gets ASF infection, the expectation is that US pork international partners trading partner will recognize that protected status.
The international animal health and trade regulations recognize control zones and free zones.