China culls 900 pigs after confirming first case of African swine fever

China has reported its first case of African swine fever (ASF) in the north-eastern city of Shenyang and culled more than 900 pigs to prevent the epidemic from spreading, local media reported.

Central authorities confirmed the illness in a pig on Friday in a community in Shenyang’s Shenbei New Area, before killing all the pigs there that were thought to be affected and launching tests on others in the area that might be threatened.

So far 913 pigs have been killed and disinfection in the affected part of the city is ongoing which has been designated a threatened area by the agriculture minister and local government.

Animal health workers are collecting samples from all pigs in the designated zone for a virus test, the report said.

ASF can cause death between two and 10 days after the animals have contracted it and mortality rates may be as high as 100%, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Reuters reported that news of the infection will stoke concerns about its spread in a country which is by far the world’s largest producer of pork. And there are fears the disease could spread to pig herds in Japan, the Korean peninsula and other parts of Asia.

Cases have been recorded across Europe, Russia and Sub-Saharan Africa, but it has never occurred in East Asia until now, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“If it can be put under control, it should not be a problem … but we have to watch the developments very carefully,” said Yao Guiling, an analyst with consultancy China-America Commodity Data Analytics.

“If the disease gets out of control, the losses will be immeasurable.”

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