Philippine church programs on African swine fever alert

Precautionary measures called for despite health authorities saying disease is not a threat to health of humans
Philippine church programs on African swine fever alert

Meat vendors have reported a slump in pork sales due to the reported spread of African swine fever in some provinces of the Philippines. (Photo by Jojo Rinoza)

ucanews.com reporter, Manila
Philippines
September 13, 2019
Church programs in the Philippines that involve food distribution and feeding communities have been told to take "precautionary measures" with the spread of African swine fever in some provinces.

The government this week confirmed that at least 7,000 pigs have been culled in at least two provinces in the northern Philippines that have been hit by the disease.

In the past days, laboratory tests have confirmed that African swine fever caused the deaths of pig herds in at least seven villages near the capital Manila.

Bishop Oscar Florencio of the Episcopal Commission on Health Care said precautionary measures are "prudent" at this time for the church's social action activities.

The prelate, who belong to the country's Military Ordinariate, however, said he is not sure if it is advisable not to serve pork dishes.

"There might be sources of pork that are not contaminated," said Bishop Florencio, adding that it is necessary "to make some verifications" before making decisions.

Caritas Manila, the social action arm of Manila Archdiocese, has stopped serving pork dishes in its feeding programs.

Father Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, said the move supports the organization's campaign to promote a healthier plant-based diet.

"We don't serve pork. Protein can come from fish, tofu, nuts," said the priest, noting that the common ailments in urban poor communities are "chronic lifestyle diseases" like diabetes and strokes.

The Philippines' Department of Health recently declared that African swine fever is not a risk to human health.

"We want to allay the fears of the public by saying that, as long as pork is bought from reliable sources and it is cooked thoroughly, pork is safe to eat," said Health Secretary Francisco Duque.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, swine fever is a severe and highly contagious viral disease among domestic and wild pigs.  

It is commonly introduced into a herd through uncooked or undercooked contaminated pork products that are then ingested by the pig.

The virus is then spread between pigs by direct contact with an infected pig, or ingestion of contaminated material, such as food waste, feed, or garbage.

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