The deadly pig disease that has devastated China’s hog herd has been found in the Dominican Republic, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

The USDA confirmed the presence of African swine fever (ASF) in the Caribbean country on July 28.

The discovery fuels concerns about the disease, which does not affect humans, entering mainland North America. Since spreading in China in 2018, the disease has been found in other parts of Asia and in Europe, but ASF hasn’t been found in the Northern Hemisphere in 40 years. There has never been any finding of ASF in Canada or the United States.

According to the Canadian Pork Council, a single positive case in Canada could result in the immediate suspension of pork and pig exports valued at over $5 billion in 2020, putting thousands of jobs at risk.

The positive samples in the Dominican Republic were found through an existing cooperative surveillance program, said the USDA.

Pork and pork products from the Dominican Republic are already banned from the U.S. as a result of existing classical swine fever restrictions. U.S. border authorities say they will also boost inspections of flights from the Dominican Republic.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, meanwhile, said it is closely monitoring the situation in the Dominican Republic and working with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to strengthen the appropriate border controls for the Caribbean region. Canada does not import pork or pork products from the Dominican Republic.

Canadian officials have been working on ASF prevention and preparedness plans with their North American counterparts for several years. The issue has also been a priority for federal and provincial agriculture ministers in Canada, including during their most recent meeting earlier this month.

Canadian Pork Council chair Rick Bergmann, in a statement issued July 29, noted one outcome of the collaborative effort over the last few years was the quick decision by CBSA to add Dominican Republic to the list of countries that border officers are screening for ASF risks.

“While much progress has been made, there remain opportunities to eradicate wild pigs, enhance biosecurity and develop the response policies and programs that will be needed should there ever be a Canadian outbreak,” said Bergmann. “We look forward to collaborating with the Canadian government to further strengthen our capacity to maintain the health of our Canadian pig herd and pork industry.”

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