UPLB to help DA combat ASF

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) are joining forces to help avert the further spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country. 

Officials of DA-BAI visited UPLB on Jan. 9 to hold a dialogue with faculty members and researchers of the university to chart the steps that will be taken in order to control and manage ASF and reinvigorate the hog industry in the country.

The UPLB team was headed by Dr. Jezie A. Acorda, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Merdelyn Lit, vice chancellor for research and extension.

Dr. Acorda and Dr. Lit are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the UPLB Technical Advisory and Working Group (TAWG) for the Surveillance, Diagnosis, Control, and Prevention of ASF, Avian Influenza, and other Economically Important Diseases.

The DA team was headed by Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, chief of staff of the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.

Present at the talks were UP President Danilo Concepcion; Hon. Angelo Jimenez, member of the UP Board of Regents; Chancellor Jose Camacho, Jr. and UPLB faculty members, and staff. 

Dr. Fermin Adriano, senior adviser to the Secretary of Agriculture and other DA staff, as well as Dean Elpidio Agbisit, Jr. of the College of Agriculture and Food Science; Dr. Rommel Sulabo, director of the Institute of Animal Science; and other members of the UPLB-TAWG were also present at the meeting.

Dr. Samuel Castro, ASF focal person of DA presented a situationer of the disease, the most worrisome of which is that it has decimated 30% of the swine population in the country in 37 provinces, mostly in Luzon and in the southern part of Mindanao.

To stop the spread of ASF, Dr. Castro said that there has to be targeted communication, intensified surveillance, geotagging of animals and meat, intentional meat and product testing, and a localized attack or response at the community level by empowering local government units to implement elevated responses and enhanced communication of strict protocols and guidelines.

He also highlighted the need to conduct ASF vaccine trials and mandatory testing for ASF every 21 days of farms that transport pigs for slaughter and to refocus the DA regional livestock budget toward ASF control.

Dr. Sebastian reiterated how grave the situation of ASF is in the country and stressed the need for more appropriate strategies that the university can recommend to help protect the areas that are not affected yet and to reinvigorate the areas that are already affected.

Only the islands comprising the Visayas and Region IV-B (Mimaropa) have not reported ASF incidence yet. 

Dr. Adriano called on the UPLB-TAWG to give a truthful assessment on whether the disease could be contained and to recommend strategies that may be taken to do so as well as fallback options for continuous pork supply in the country.

UPLB-TAWG is now firming up proposals for projects and activities that the university will undertake on surveillance, knowledge-attitude-practice assessment, risk assessment, and provision of laboratory services, as initially presented by Dr. Acorda at the dialogue. 

It is also looking into possible activities to evaluate commercially available rapid test kits, using data analytics in decision-making, the use of therapeutics and nutritionals to prevent or slow down the spread of the virus, and recommend strategies for repopulation and protection of breeder stocks. 

UPLB-TAWG was created by Chancellor Camacho through Administrative Order No. 428 series of 2020 that was issued on Dec. 14, 2020. 

It is tasked to assess gaps and gray areas in the management of ASF, AI, and other economically important diseases, pursue research, and provide technical services, guidelines, and recommendations to share information on the committee’s activities to the public. (JMBo)

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