Vietnam has been advised to declare a rapidly-spreading outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) as a national emergency.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) issued the advice to the south-east Asian country on Tuesday, March 19.

The virus was first detected in Vietnam a month ago on pig farms in two northern provinces.

As of March 15, the Department of Animal Health in Vietnam had confirmed a total of 239 ASF outbreaks across 17 provinces.

The country has culled more than 25,000 pigs in an effort to stop further transmission of the virus.

In a statement, Albert Lieberg, the FAO’s representative in the country, said: “The Department of Livestock Production (DLP) estimates that over 2.5 million households in Vietnam are currently actively engaged in pig farming.

“As such, the loss of pigs due to ASF infection and control measures leads to a heavy economic burden for many rural families. Together, with other international partners, FAO will be doing its best to support the Vietnam government in coping with the disease and its consequences,” said Lieberg.

According to the FAO, while government authorities have been implementing strict movement control of pigs and pig products from infected communes, small pig farming models with low biosecurity and swill feeding still continue to facilitate the spread of ASF.