A case of African swine fever has been detected in a Hong Kong slaughterhouse, prompting the culling of all 6,000 pigs at the facility.
Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan said in a statement Friday that the incurable virus was found in a single pig imported from a farm in Guangdong province in mainland China, where the monthslong outbreak has devastated herds.
Pork is China’s staple meat and its price and availability is considered a matter of national concern. Shortfalls in supply have increased demand for pork from producers in the U.S., with whom China is locked in an increasingly acrimonious tariff battle.
Chan said the culling was necessary so that “thorough cleansing and also disinfection could be conducted.” Operations at the Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse would be suspended until the disinfection work is completed, she said.
“We will enhance the surveillance and also testing of pigs, and currently we collect samples from pigs with ASF symptoms for testing, and in the future we will step up the sampling of other pigs for testing,” Chan said.
She said the territory’s fresh pork supply would be reduced in the near future but there would still be a limited supply of live pigs available from another slaughterhouse.
Unlike swine flu, African swine fever cannot be transmitted to humans and Chan said well-cooked pork is safe for consumption.
Concerns about the spread of Africa swine fever to the U.S. recently led organizers to cancel the World Pork Expo scheduled for June in the state of Iowa.
Denmark, meanwhile, has begun erecting a 70-kilometer (43.4-mile) fence along the German border to keep out wild boars in an attempt to prevent the spread of African swine fever, which could jeopardize the country’s valuable pork industry.
Russia has also been hit hard by African swine fever and some have speculated the Chinese outbreak may have originated among pigs from that country.