Strengthening PNG’s fight against African Swine Fever

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfection measures are vital in the fight against animal diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF) and viral infections.

Substantial amounts of consumables, veterinary drugs and PPE are needed to bolster the country’s response to ASF.

In April 2021, Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Plus (PHAMA Plus) Program, supported by Australia and New Zealand, provided essential items and equipment to PNG’s National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) for its ASF response and containment. 

The support from PHAMA Plus included disposable surgical gowns, aprons, overalls, shoe covers and hand gloves, needles, syringes and blood tubes. The PPE is used by NAQIA animal health workers, veterinarians, provincial livestock officers and those in pig pens or handling pigs for disease surveillance and monitoring.

According to PNG’s first female vet, NAQIA’s Dr Tania Areori, the procurement of PPE and consumables enables NAQIA and the National Animal and Food Testing Laboratory (NAHFTL) staff to undertake safe biosecurity protocols to monitor reported incidences of ASF in the field, gather blood samples from pigs and perform laboratory testing and analysis.

“Our work has been limited by the shortage of available PPE. In the absence of PPE, the risk of staff spreading ASF from disease areas is high. If there is no PPE, we are unable to visit sites, and we can only speak to farmers offsite and give advice without undertaking disease testing. If we do not visit a site, we are unable to confirm if the disease has spread in the area, and this is important information required for the control of ASF,” Dr Areori said.

“PPE significantly reduces the risk of staff spreading the disease between sites. With PPE, we can go on-site and do thorough field investigations confidently, knowing we have taken every precaution on our part to reduce that risk. Using PPE also helps farmers to have confidence in NAQIA and provincial staff and organisations. When people see that we are taking this seriously and have all these protocols that we need to follow to limit the transmission risk, they also realise the importance of biosecurity”, Dr Areori added.

PHAMA Plus will continue to help NAQIA to obtain PPE materials for its animal health team on the ground in order to carry out ASF surveillance, awareness and education.

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