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African swine fever confirmed in Dominican Republic pigs -USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the deadly hog virus African swine fever (ASF) in samples from pigs in the Dominican Republic, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

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CHICAGO, July 28 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the deadly hog virus African swine fever (ASF) in samples from pigs in the Dominican Republic, the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

This represented the first detection of the disease in the Western Hemisphere in about 40 years, according to the National Pork Producers Council, a U.S. industry group.

The findings raise concerns about the global spread of the disease, which devastated China's hog herd after being detected there in 2018.

ASF is not dangerous to humans but is almost always fatal to pigs. Governments often block imports of pork products from countries where it has been found, even in wild animals, to prevent transmission.

The United States already prohibits imports of pork and pork products from the Dominican Republic as a result of restrictions related to another disease, classical swine fever, the statement from USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said.

"USDA is committed to assisting the Dominican Republic in dealing with ASF," the USDA said. "We will also offer similar help to Haiti, which borders the Dominican Republic and is at high risk for ASF detections."

The USDA said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is increasing inspections of flights from the Dominican Republic to ensure travelers do not bring prohibited products into the United States, and ensuring that garbage from these flights is properly handled to prevent transmission of the disease.

"We thank the USDA and CBP for the additional measures they are taking to prevent the spread of ASF to the United States," said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council.

African swine fever spread rapidly in China starting three years ago and wiped out half of that country's hog herd, the world's largest, within a year. It sent global pork prices surging.

The disease has also been found in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.

(Reporting by Julie Ingwersen and Tom Polansek in Chicago Editing by Chris Reese)

((Julie.ingwersen@thomsonreuters.com; 1-313-484-5283; Reuters Messaging: julie.ingwersen.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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