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African swine fever: When pork is unsafe for consumption

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For now, lovers of pork may have to refrain from its consumption, as the dreaded African Swine Fever (ASF) has continued to ravage more pig farms across the country.

Underground checks have revealed that in a bid to avert the looming losses already incurred by affected farmers, those who still have some of the animals in stock are already rushing to dispose them off, to the detriment of the hapless consumers.

Though the consumption of ASF-infested pigs doesn’t affect humans, as it is not a zoonotic disease, according to the Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA), Dr. Olufemi Aroso, its consumption is not advisable. 

He explained that though there are unknown consequences, he warned that in a situation where mutations occur, severe consequences might be experienced when diseased pigs are consumed.

Aroso said: “By mutations, I mean when humans are too often exposed to viruses that affect only animals through eating disorders, they may change forms to start affecting humans. For instance, human strains may come to life by mutation of the virus.

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“Pork lovers are warned to stay off pigs that are not slaughtered in good health in your presence. Stay off unwholesome pork. African swine fever doesn’t affect humans. It’s not a zoonotic disease, but its consumption is not advisable by humans. The best practice is to bury the dead ones.”

Aroso, however, raised concern that the dreaded disease might continue to ravage the farms, if farmers failed to adhere strictly to preventive practices because of multiple but independent farming operations done by individuals who have little or no knowledge of epidemiology and disease preventive methodologies. 

“There was noticeable breakdown in hygiene and biosecurity protocols/practices across the farms, thus triggering this year’s wave of outbreak. If the farmers fail to follow the best hygienic and biosecurity protocols, the disease will continue.

“To avert future reoccurrence, farmers at the piggery farms must abide by basic hygiene and biosecurity protocols. This is very essential in disease prevention. Good cleaning and periodic disinfection of all pens and roads, including drainages are essential to wade off the disease. There is also the need to control and or quarantine new pigs into the farms. There is need for regular orientation for the buyers, including abattoir boys, on the need to clean and disinfect all items and vehicles involved in pig operations,” he said.

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Since the outbreak of the disease in some parts of the country in 2007, which forced many farmers out of business, the farmers have never had it so bad like the current scenario.

The worst hit at that period were Oke-Aro Pig Farm, in Matogun, Lagos State and Zion Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Society, Gudugba, located along the Lagos/Abeokuta, expressway, Ewekoro Local Government, Ogun State, among others.

But those who stayed back then, despite enormity of the losses and others that later joined the lucrative farming enterprise, waiting for the better opportunity to recover the losses, have now been badly hit.

The First Vice President of the Pig Estate, Oke Aro, old farm, Yemisi Zaria-Suleiman, who told The Guardian that the farm alone had lost over N4.5m, with over 145,000 pigs dead, said the mortality had continued unabated.

It was learnt that the disease also affected surrounding farms like Iwalesin, Unity Farm and others around Matogun axis. It also affects some farmers in Ijebu, Ogun State and the Lagos State Pig Estate, Gberigbe, in Ikorodu.

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To sustain the business, Zara-Suleiman said most farmers have been forced to buy expressive anti virus chemicals (which became even more expensive and scarce at this period of COVID-19) to fumigate their pens to rescue remaining pigs.

“Most of the surviving pigs are the smaller pigs like weaners, growers, and inpig, which can not be sold. Very few farmers have fatners to sell right now. To forestall future occurrences, we need to ensure that we turn our waste (dung) to wealth.

“We have been looking for investors in the area of production of organic fertilizer, in which we can dry and process our dung into dry and well package organic fertilizer. Pig dungs bring better result than any other dungs (some pig farmers have practicalised this). We also need investors in areas of biogas in which our dung can do excellently well.

“Our drainage system is also a challenge. We will need an incinerator on the farm estate for proper disposition of dead pigs, this will reduce flies and rats who are also carriers of diseases on the farm.

“The farm requires the presence of a cold room, a meat dryer and processing plant, this can enable us access NAFDAC to encourage export. This, in a way can encourage increase in selling price to help farmers break-even and make profit, which for many years they are struggling to achieve…”

She appreciated the state government for its palliatives, noting that the gesture gives the farmers hope that they are not alone or abandoned at this trying time.

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