From the initial five towns confirmed to be affected with African Swine Fever (ASF), the dreaded disease affecting pigs has now reached the municipalities of Caramoran and Baras, the Provincial Veterinary Office reported last week.
Unconfirmed reports also claimed that samples collected from swine in Bagamanoc and Panganiban town also tested positive for the presence of virus DNA after testing at the Department of Agriculture’s Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (RADDL) in Camalig, Albay.
There are also unusual swine deaths in Pandan and Bagamanoc as well as other towns, it is alleged.
In a report to Governor Joseph Cua, who chairs the Provincial ASF Task Force, Provincial Veterinarian Dr, Jane Rubio said that as of Jan. 7, 2021, a total of 112 samples out of the 137 collected from diseased or dead pigs have tested positive for ASF.
The blood and tissue samples came from barangays Bagong Sirang and Tilod, both in Baras; Bagumbayan, Bote, Buenavista, Cabugao, Guinobatan, Marinawa, Mintay, Pananaogan, San Andres, San Roque, Sipi and Tilis, all in Bato town; Dariao in Caramoran; Agojo, Asgad, Batong Paloway, Belmonte, Bislig, Cabcab, Caragñag, Codon, Lictin, Mayngaway, Timbaan and Wagdas, all in San Andres; Paraiso and Progreso, both in San Miguel; and. Calatagan Tibang, Calatagan Proper, Cavinitan, Gogon, Hicmig, Pajo Baguio, Palnab del Sur, San Isidro Village, and Valencia, all in Virac.
The report is based on the samples collected randomly and does not represent the totality of all cases present in the province, Dr. Rubio clarified, with the first cases officially reported by the Catanduanes State University’s College of Agriculture and Fisheries (CatSU-CAF) on Dec. 7, 2020 and the Viga Breeding Station a day later.
Further investigation by the PVO turned up unreported swine deaths in Dugui Too, Duqui Wala, Buyo, Tubaon, Sogod Simamla, Pajo and Palnab barangays, mostly in backyard pigpends even before CatSU-CAF made its report.
On Dec. 10 last year, the report pointed out, the Virac LGU’s livestock technician reported eight deaths in Capilihan and three more in Calatagan Tibang outside the university’s sprawling campus, but no blood samples were collected.
In Viga, it added, there were unreported deaths and ASF cases in other barangays prior to the breeding station’s official report.
Cited as the probable sources of infection are the illegal shipment of live pigs by traders or “viajeros” from ASF-infected provinces like Camarines Sur to the island through the coastal towns of San Andres, Caramoran, Pandan, Virac and Bato; influx of pork and pork products brought to Catanduanes by donors from infected provinces as relief goods; uncontrolled selling on-line of pork and pork products which is very difficult to monitor; non-implementation of meat inspection in most LGUs, all of which either have no slaughterhouses or have non-functional ones; and, very lax implementation of border controls at the municipal and barangay levels, especially in coastal areas.
Following the Provincial ASF Task Force meeting with DA regional technical director Edgar Madrid on Dec. 18, the provincial veterinarian met subsequently with the local chief executives, the municipal ASF task force and barangay captains in Virac and San Andres.
After the Christmas break, Dr. Rubio called an emergency meeting with municipal agriculturists and livestock technicians last Jan. 6 to re-orient them on the requirements and proper protocol of depopulation.
Be sure to pinpoint the location of pigs within the 500-meter zone within which the depopulation will be first conducted, she reminded, with the geotagging and inventory to be done with the technical assistance of other LGU offices.
All members of the ASF Quick Response Team should be present, with DA regional office to be represented as it will be the one to pay compensation to the affected farmers, Dr. Rubio stressed.
She said the LGUs should request for the authority to depopulate from the DA regional director, which can be done through on-line.
“A signed reply sent through Messenger would suffice,” the veterinarian added. “Baka ma-technical tayo diyan kung walang authority.”
In Virac, at least two swine raisers, including one with 150 heads, have offered to voluntarily depopulate so they could get compensation for the maximum 20 heads allowed by the DA.
Just the same, the PVO stressed, the go-signal of the DA regional director is needed, along with test results from blood samples taken from the pigs.
Even if farmers showing resistance, the depopulation should proceed as the task force has the support of the police, Rubio said.
The meeting also discussed “alarming” reports of pig intestines being disposed in public drains and pig carcasses floating in the Bato river.
In the report to the governor, the PVO said it is coordinating the LGUs’ conduct of disinfection of pigpens, slaughterhouses and livestock facilities in the affected towns, which have been given disinfectants.
The strict monitoring and surveillance of the disease should be continued through the collection of more blood samples for laboratory examination, it stated.