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Beijing issues rare public warning about the swine fever crisis

(CNN) –Chinese authorities have announced strict new measures in an effort to halt the country's rapidly growing African swine fever…

Chinese authorities have announced strict new measures in an effort to halt the country’s rapidly growing African swine fever crisis, which has spread to 18 provinces and led to slaughter more than 200,000 pigs.

The days after confirming the situation were “serious”, the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture reported on Friday the first outbreak of the disease in the southwest of Sichuan on a farm of 40 pigs.

The news is especially for officials as Sichuan is the premier pig producing region in China &#821

1; a country that produces half the world’s pigs with a current population of about 500 million pigs.

Although the disease does not pose a direct threat to human health, its arrival and proliferation in China has increased threats to the pork industry, with high potential for deliveries and prices in the coming months.

In a rare document issued jointly by the Ministry of Agriculture, Transport and Public Security on Wednesday, the government blamed unnecessary vehicles transporting pigs and profit-driven “lawless elements” moving high-risk areas for the rapid spread of disease since the first case was found in August.

The directive required stricter national inspections of all animal transport vehicles and severe penalties for illegal transport and slaughter of pigs.

The document comes after the UN has recently warned that the disease is “here to stay” in China and can quickly become an epidemic, with the most virulent swine fever that causes 100% mortality for infected pigs.

“What we see so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Juan Lubroth, veterinary director at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in September.

“Transboundary emergence of the virus, probably through movements of products containing infected pork, will almost certainly occur,” he added. “So it’s no longer” about “it will happen but when and what we can do together to prevent and minimize the damage.”

African swine fever, which has no vaccine or cure, was first discovered in Asia last year, in an area of ​​Siberia, according to the United Nations.

Chinese authorities in October banned the feeding of kitchen waste, or swelling, to pigs after linking the widely used practice to most early disease cases. They also announced plans to establish a registration system for vehicles carrying livestock.

Despite the UN’s recognition of China’s efforts to contain the disease, some experts are still skeptical about Beijing’s ability to control it, pointing to the challenges of maintaining biosafety on the country’s large number of backyard products.

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