BANKCOM (BLUMBERG) – Thailand, one of Asia's largest pork producers, has stepped up efforts to contain the deadly pig virus that causes chaos as it spreads across the region.
African swine fever – a disease that kills virtually all pigs it infects – spreads across Asia from China and Mongolia to Vietnam and Cambodia. Millions of pigs have been lost, creating a global shortage of protein and agriculture with seating and billions of dollars of food businesses in spending.
"We are on a red alert for the swine virus," Annan Sewanarath, a permanent secretary at the Thai Ministry of Agriculture said in an interview.
"We are trying to prevent it from spreading to Thailand."
Thailand has tightened inspections at airports and border checkpoints, smashed by illegal slaughterers and merchants, and imposed stricter requirements for reporting deaths from pigs. Authorities found contaminated pig products at airports and borders, but have not yet found cases on farms.
China, the largest producer and producer of pork, is trying to prevent the onset of the disease since August. But without a vaccine, the virus continues to spread.
The type of African swine fever that spreads in Asia is undeniably nasty, with almost every pig being infected with a haemorrhagic disease that resembles Ebola in humans. However, it is not known that they are sick people.
Vietnam, the largest producer of pork from southeast Asia, revealed its first case in February. Cambodia – sent between Vietnam and Thailand – reported its first infection less than two months later.
"Preventing the epidemic is our national agenda," said Chirasak Pilipposopon, deputy director general of the Thai department store.
"Even if it enters the country, we will be rapidly containing the epidemic in order to minimize the damage done to the industry."
The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the epidemic could cost the Thai economy more than $ 1 billion ($ 1.38 billion) if over 50 per cent of pigs in the country are infected. It could reach nearly $ 2 billion if 80 percent is infected. The Thai government approved a $ 4.7m budget last month to prepare the nation for a potential match.
"No country is safe," says Dirk Pfeiffer, professor at the Department of Infectious Diseases and Public Health at Hong Kong City University.
"There is a high risk of introducing the virus to Thailand, as is the case for each country in the region and beyond."
Thailand produces more than 2 million pigs each year, and exports about 40 percent to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. According to Chiracak, he does not import live pigs or pork, and now visitors are not allowed to bring processed pork into the country.
It confiscates pigmeat products at its airports and the border is 550 times since August, revealing the virus 43 times, according to the Department of Animal Husbandry.
The Thai Swine Flu Association said the government was striving to keep the disease. Group leader Surachai Sutitim said he was "confident that Thailand could remain clean from the virus".
Porous boundaries increase the risk of illness entering the country. The virus can survive in unwashed meat for a long time, and pigs can get infected if contaminated food gets into their food. But food for feeding in Thailand is rare, Cherrasak said.
The outbreak of the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia could pose a risk to large food companies, such as Betagro Plus and Charoen Pofand Foods PLC, and threaten 180,000 small nationals. It will also create an urgent challenge for the government to be formed shortly after the March general elections.