Singapore cleared of two contagious animal diseases

PHOTO: Singapore cleared of two contagious animal diseases

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been certified free of two highly contagious animal diseases that can affect cattle, sheep and goats.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has cleared the Republic of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and peste des petits ruminants. The former is a bacterial disease that affects animals' lungs, while the latter is a virus that can kill 80 per cent of animals it infects.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan, who wrote about the development in a blog post yesterday, took the opportunity to stress the importance of being vigilant against animal disease outbreaks.

"Although Singapore does not have a large livestock industry, we have a significant transhipment and re-export market, and being free from such animal diseases is a big plus," he said.

He also noted that some of these diseases can be passed from species to species, and hence pose a risk to humans.

"This is why we maintain high veterinary standards, stay alert to disease outbreaks elsewhere and act on them, when necessary," he added.

Mr Khaw revealed that Singapore suspended imports of pork from Poland in February after African swine fever - a contagious haemorrhagic disease affecting pigs - was detected there.

The virus can persist for up to several months in pork products such as salami, he said, making it difficult to eradicate.

He added that it is one of the most devastating animal diseases, with no cure or vaccine available.

And if transmitted to Asia, it could spread rapidly through pig populations in the region as these do not have protective antibodies against it, said Mr Khaw.

"While (the virus) does not pose an infection risk to humans, it could significantly impact our food security," he added.

He said that the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore is monitoring the situation closely, and is working with the Polish authorities to try to resume pork imports from unaffected regions of the country.

One way in which Singapore makes sure that food supplies are not affected here is by having diverse food sources.

Last year, for instance, the Republic imported 700 tonnes of frozen pork from Poland, less than 1 per cent of total pork imports.

Singapore imports more than half of its pork from Brazil and Indonesia. The Netherlands, Australia and the United States account for about a quarter.

Supermarkets like FairPrice and Cold Storage are not affected as they do not import pork from Poland, The Straits Times understands.

The OIE has previously declared Singapore free of other animal diseases such as rabies, foot and mouth disease and African horse sickness.

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