WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 26 its intent to designate Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone,” a World Organization for Animal Health designation. The USDA will work to gain acceptance of this designation to maintain U.S. pork export continuity should Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands have an animal test positive for African swine fever in the future.
The United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, remain free of African swine fever. There is no commercial pork trade from Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the United States mainland.
“We thank Secretary Vilsack for taking 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,” Jen Sorenson, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in a news release.
The USDA, Customs and Border Protection, NPPC and other industry organizations are working together to contain the first outbreak of ASF in the Western hemisphere in approximately 40 years. These measures include:
- Aid to the Dominican Republic: The USDA is providing continued testing support, setting up laboratory equipment and training laboratory personnel, providing personal protective equipment, and offering ongoing assistance on response and mitigation measures. In addition, surveillance and testing aid have been offered to Haiti, as it borders the Dominican Republic.
- Haiti risk mitigation: NPPC has reached out to the U.S. Department of State to ensure appropriate ASF-prevention protocols are followed by U.S. earthquake relief workers travelling to and from Haiti.
- Enhanced mitigation efforts in Puerto Rico, including support for the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept illegal boat traffic. They have also prioritized depopulation of urban feral pigs over the next 12-18 months and are establishing a surveillance lab.
- Collaboration with Mexico and Canada: For example, Mexico has tightened inspection at land and sea ports since the Dominican Republic outbreak. It has also taken appropriate measures to mitigate the risk presented by migrant workers moving between Mexico and the Dominican Republic.