As part of its continuing efforts to respond to the detection of African Swine Fever in the Dominican Republic and prevent its introduction into mainland United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the USDA is preparing to establish a Foreign Animal Disease protection zone.
USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer Rosemary Sifford explains more about this additional action to further safeguard the U.S. swine herd and protect the interests and livelihoods of U.S. pork producers.
“The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recently added a chapter that allows us to identify a protection zone, which is meant to be a zone that we can put additional mitigations in place to help protect the rest of the country,” said Sifford. “So, that's exactly what we are working toward doing for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We're going to use these additional mitigations that we are putting in place to develop our protection zone."
In addition to the surveillance and the education and outreach, USDA is also looking at opportunities to further restrict the pork products that might move in interstate commerce from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to the mainland.
“Normally, those items have not been restricted,” said Sifford. “We're going to add some restrictions there, and that will allow us to provide the OIE all the information that they would need for us to put in place a protection zone for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.”
When the protection zone is established, APHIS will have processes in place in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to: restrict movement of live swine and products out of the protection zone; conduct appropriate surveillance within the protection zone to quickly detect introductions of disease; conduct a public education campaign relating to biosecurity on farms and other establishments, prohibitions on movement of live swine and products outside the region, contacting authorities to report clinical cases, and similar actions.
The USDA has also been actively working with officials in the Dominican Republic to assist in their response to this first outbreak of ASF in the Western Hemisphere in about 40 years. And the National Pork Producers Council reminds consumers that ASF isn't transmissible to humans either by contact or by eating meat from the infected hog.