Papua New Guinea (PNG) has reported its first outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in free-ranging pigs in the island nation's Southern Highlands province, according to to a notice from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
The finding brings the ASF virus ever closer to Australia, after confirmed recent detections in nearby Indonesia and Timor Leste.
PNG told OIE the incident was first reported by a provincial livestock officer on March 5, and its National Agriculture Quarantine & Inspection Authority dispatched an investigating team on March 11 that investigated and collected whole blood and sera for testing. Samples were dispatched to the Veterinary Laboratory in Port Moresby, PNG, as well as to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
In a statement, Australia Minister for Agriculture, Drought & Emergency Management David Littleproud noted that Australia's biosecurity is more critical than ever.
“Australia already has strict measures in place to prevent ASF from hitting our shores; however, it is important that we regularly assess and improve the measures we have in place," he said. “With the confirmation of ASF in our near neighbor, our biosecurity measures are more important than ever. We offer our assistance to PNG as they work to contain this disease.
“Biosecurity measures in place in the Torres Strait have been ramped up as a result of COVID-19 and are being re-assessed to ensure they effectively manage the risk that ASF in PNG poses to Australia," Littleproud said. “While ASF is not a public health concern, it could devastate Australia’s pork industry if it were to arrive here."
The Torres Strait, at approximately 150 km at its narrowest point, separates PNG from Cape York in northern Queensland.