Thailand Intensifying Efforts to Hold Off Lethal Pig Virus

Thailand, one of Asia’s top pork producers, is intensifying efforts to hold off a lethal pig virus that is causing havoc as it spreads across the region.

African swine fever — a disease that kills nearly all the pigs it infects — has been spreading through Asia from China and Mongolia to Vietnam and Cambodia. Millions of pigs have been culled, creating a global protein shortage and saddling farmers and food businesses with billions of dollars in costs.

“We’re on red alert for the pig virus,” Anan Suwannarat, the permanent secretary in Thailand’s Agriculture Ministry, said in an interview. “We’re trying everything to prevent it from spreading to Thailand.”

Thailand has tightened inspections at airports and border checkpoints, cracked down on illegal slaughterhouses and traders, and imposed stricter requirements for reporting hog deaths. The authorities have detected contaminated pork products at airports and borders, but have not yet found any cases at farms.

China, the largest pork producer and consumer, has been trying to contain the outbreak since August. But with no vaccine, the virus keeps spreading.

The strain of African swine fever spreading in Asia is undeniably nasty, killing virtually every pig it infects by a hemorrhagic illness reminiscent of Ebola in humans. It’s not known to sicken people, however.

Vietnam, Southeast Asia’s biggest pork producer, discovered its first case in February. Cambodia — sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand — reported its first infection less than two months later.