South Korea says some pork products brought into the country by people returning from China have tested positive for African swine fever (ASF).
Hong Nam-ki, chief of South Korea’s Office for Government Policy Coordination, confirmed the detection at an interagency meeting, according to an Aug. 27 report by South Korean media Yonhap News Agency. The meeting was called to discuss preventive measures following the confirmation.
According to Hong, ASF was found in dumplings and other foods containing pork that were brought back from China by several South Koreans on Aug. 3. They had visited Shenyang, the capital of northeastern China’s Liaoning Province.
“It will take a few more days to confirm the exact strain of the virus, but it will be coming soon,” said Hong, adding, “We have to further strengthen preventive quarantines at ther borders.”
The virus detection in South Korea was followed by an online announcement by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the very next day.
FAO warned that ASF, which has prompted Chinese authorities to cull more than 24,000 pigs in four provinces, could spread to other Asian countries at any time.
Shenyang was the first city in China to have reported an ASF outbreak. Since then, the disease has been detected in multiple cities, including Zhengzhou, the capital of central China’s Henan Province, and Lianyungang, a city in Jiangsu Province. While ASF is highly contagious and almost always fatal for pigs and wild boars, it isn’t harmful to humans.
Juan Lubroth, FAO’s chief veterinarian, warned that pig products, rather than live pigs, has caused the spread of ASF in China.
So far, Chinese authorities haven’t identified what caused the outbreak in the first place. However, there is evidence indicating that the outbreak was caused by imported pork, with the latest evidence being an Aug. 29 announcement by China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
In the announcement, an unidentified ministry official said that there is a possibility of a new outbreak in China. The official explained that because ASF has been prevalent in countries that are China’s neighbors, the risk of an outbreak is high. The official didn’t identify the countries.
More specifically, there is evidence that Russian pork was the culprit. Scientific journal Science reported that the virus found in China is closely related to a strain circulating in Russia.
Russia first reported an ASF outbreak in 2007. Since then, more than 2 million pigs have been culled.
In Taiwan, local authorities have taken preventive measures. In southern Taiwan, the county government of Pingtung, which has a large number of pig farms, that raise about 1.24 million pigs in total, is suggesting that local citizens take extra precautions, according to Taiwanese newspaper the Liberty Times. For example, locals who go to ASF-infected areas in China should voluntarily impose self-isolation upon their return to Taiwan, before they go to work in pig farms.
The U.S. Embassy posted the FAO announcement on its Weibo page, a social-media platform similar to Twitter, and many Chinese netizens have left comments.
A netizen with the moniker “Duoduo Guanzhao P” wrote, “I heard that because of the trade war with the United States, China doesn’t import pork from the U.S. anymore. Instead, we import from Russia.”
Chinese netizens have a tendency to leave remarks on the U.S. Embassy’s Weibo page because comments are less likely to be censored or removed by Chinese authorities.