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USDA to create ‘protection zone’ against disease deadly to hogs

In a step to protect U.S. swine and pork exports, the USDA said on Thursday that it will establish a “foreign animal disease protection zone” in two Caribbean territories, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. African swine fever, a viral disease deadly to hogs but not a threat to human health, was confirmed a month ago in the Dominican Republic.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said it was acting “out of an abundance of caution … to further safeguard the U.S. swine herd and protect the interests and livelihoods of U.S. pork producers.” When the zone is set up, APHIS will have the power to restrict the movement of hogs and pork products in the area and conduct surveillance to see if African swine fever is present.

The entire United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, is free of ASF. There is no commercial pork trade from the affected territories or the Dominican Republic to the U.S. mainland, said the National Pork Producers Council, which thanked the USDA for “this pre-emptive step to preserve the continuity of U.S. pork exports as we continue to work together to prevent the spread of African swine fever to the United States.”

The highly contagious ASF killed roughly 40% of China’s hog population in 2019.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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