Vietnam has slaughtered more than 1.2 million pigs infected with African swine fever, a deadly disease that is rapidly spreading across the country.

The government confirmed the move on Monday, May 13, as a way to prevent the virus from spreading even wider.

"The risk of the virus spreading further is very high and the evolution of the outbreak is complicated," the government said in a statement.

African Swine Fever In Vietnam

Swine fever was first detected in Vietnam in February. It has since spread to 29 provinces, including Dong Nai which supplies nearly half of the pork consumed in the country's business and financial hub Ho Chi Minh.

The government stated that many provinces failed to detect the disease before it was too late because of lack of funding. Infected pigs were also not culled immediately because there was not enough space to bury the culled animals.

Pork accounts for three-quarters of the total meat consumption in Vietnam. Majority of the 30 million pigs raised in the Southeast Asian country is consumed locally.

In March, the United Nations Food and Agriculture urged the country to declare a national emergency due to the African swine fever outbreak.

African Swine Fever Spreads In China

The virus has also been detected and rapidly spreading in China. According to reports, African swine fever has also been found in the southern Hainan island, about 2,000 miles or around 3,219 kilometers away from the province of Liaoning where the first case of the deadly disease was recorded.

The government has ordered widespread culling to control the outbreak. China's National Bureau of Statistics recently released a data showing that the number of pigs in the country dropped to 375.3 million, about 40 million lower than last year.

"I have been very surprised about how fasy ASF has spread in China," said Linda Dixon, a researcher at the Pirbright Institute, to Time.

The consumption of infected pork is a major contributor to the rapid spread of the virus in China. African swine fever can survive for months in pork products such as sausages.

Although the government has tried to put a stop to swill feeding, many small farmers feed their pigs with household garbage.

There is neither a vaccine nor a cure for African swine fever. It is highly contagious and deadly to pigs, but it is harmless to humans.

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