YOUth should know: The African Swine Fever and if it is transmissible

According to NParks, the disease does not infect humans and is not a risk to public health.

Edwin Chan

I like my pineapples on pizzas, and put my cereal before milk.

Published: 17 February 2023, 7:22 PM

The presence of African Swine Fever (ASF) in a wild boar carcass found in the northwest of Singapore was confirmed by the National Parks Board (NParks) earlier this month. 

This raised some alarms, with many unsure if the viral disease is transmissible to humans. Taiwan then announced on Feb 10 that those who import, bring in or ship in pork products from Singapore will be fined NT$200,000 (S$8,800).

So what exactly is the ASF and is there really a need to worry? Here are four things you should know about it:

1. ASF does not infect humans

According to NParks, ASF is not zoonotic, meaning it does not infect humans, and is not a risk to public health. 

In its public advisory, NParks also shared that it is a disease that only affects members of the pig family, such as wild boars. The disease does not affect other animals, including dogs, cats or guinea pigs.

NParks has in place a biosurveillance system to quickly detect animal diseases, including ASF. The board also shared that it will closely monitor the health of wild boars in areas such as nature reserves, parks, and other green spaces.

2. Members of the public should not interact with wild boars

While the disease does not affect humans, members of the public are still advised against interacting with wild boars.

Park visitors are reminded to stay on designated trails when visiting these areas, and to observe wild boars from a distance.

Should you find a wild boar in your tracks, NParks advises one to stay calm and move slowly away from it. It is important to keep a safe distance and not corner or provoke the animal such as taking photos with flash.

If you see adult boars with young piglets, you should leave them alone. They are potentially more dangerous as they may attempt to defend their young.

Should you encounter a sick or dead wild boar, you can call the Animal Response Centre at 1800-476-1600.

3. Singapore has no pig farms

According to the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), pig farms in Singapore were completely phased out by 1989. 

We now import all of our pork supply. Meat and meat products to be exported to Singapore need to be from accredited sources, approved by SFA.

SFA ensures that the imported meat is derived from animals which have passed inspection and found to be free from any signs suggestive of ASF or other infectious and contagious diseases. 

The inspections are carried out by veterinarians or meat inspectors under direct supervision of government veterinarians.

4. Heat can inactivate ASF

ASF can be inactivated with heat treatment, according to SFA. Hence, sufficiently heat-treated processed pork from approved establishments is allowed for import into Singapore.

Local manufacturers and exporters must also ensure that the heat-processed or canned pork products have undergone heat treatment of at least a core temperature of 70 degrees Celsius and maintained for at least 30 minutes and for canned products, at F0 value of at least three.

F0 value is defined as the thermal lethality time required to eliminate all microorganisms present in foods.

These heat treatment parameters are sufficient to inactivate any ASF virus that may be present, in accordance with World Organisation for Animal Health guidelines.

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