Taal lockdown may have triggered ASF outbreak in Batangas town – official

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(CNN Philippines, February 28) – After being heavily affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano, a Batangas town is facing another problem – African swine fever outbreak.

Some 300 pigs have been culled in Barangay Molinete, Laurel town to prevent the spread of ASF in the province, according to Laurel Agricultural Officer Antonina Gardiola.

Authorities have identified 4000 hogs to be culled as part of the ASF-control measures, but they have encountered difficulties as some residents have refused to discard their pigs. They said the livestock are their main source of income.

Authorities are implementing the 1-7-10 protocol, which involves killing and burying pigs within a one-kilometer radius from the contaminated area. The affected area is then disinfected. Meanwhile, pigs within the seven-kilometer radius will be randomly tested and prevented from being transported elsewhere, while those within 10 kilometers will be strictly monitored.

Gardiola added they are still determining the origin of the outbreak in Laurel town but they believed it is due to the lockdown imposed on the area during Taal’s unrest last month.

The official said contaminated food scraps may have been consumed by pigs, which could have led to the spread of the swine virus.

Police checkpoints have also been placed near the entrance and exit points of Barangay Molinete to ensure that no hogs will be brought outside the village.

The African swine fever does not pose health risks on humans, but they can carry the virus and spread the disease. The virus quickly spreads in an affected hog, which could lead to death after three to five days, threatening food supply.

The Philippines had an ASF outbreak last year, with its first case reported in July 2019.

Cases of African swine fever have since been confirmed in parts of Luzon including Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Cavite, Benguet, Bicol, Batangas and most recently in some areas in Mindanao. Davao Occidental was the first to report ASF cases in the southern Philippines.