African swine fever: Another disease from China hits Assam; 2,500 pigs dead

PTI
Guwahati, Assam, India Published: May 05, 2020, 01:39 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Reuters )

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While swine flu can spread from animals to humans, swine fever does not, and therefore is not a public health threat.

The first instance of African swine fever has been reported in the country in Assam where the disease has killed around 2,500 pigs across 306 villages, Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora said.

Despite the go-ahead from the Centre, the state government will not cull the animals immediately and choose an alternative option to prevent the spread of the disease, Bora told a press conference on Sunday.

While swine flu can spread from animals to humans, swine fever does not, and therefore is not a public health threat.

"The National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, has confirmed that it is African Swine Fever (ASF). The central government has informed us that it is the first instance of the disease in the country," Bora said.

According to a 2019 census by the department, the pig population in the state was 21 lakh which has increased in recent times to around 30 lakh, he added.

"We have discussed with experts if we can save the pigs without culling them. The death percentage of the pigs affected by the disease is almost 100 per cent. So we have made some strategies to save the pigs, which are not affected by the virus," Bora said.

The department will collect samples within one km radius of the areas affected and test them, he said.

"After testing, we will cull only those pigs which will be found infected. We are avoiding the immediate culling of the pigs. We will have daily updates and take a decision as and when the situation demands," Bora said.

Further testing will be done in three Assam laboratories itself, he said.

"The virus spreads through pig's meat, saliva, blood and tissue. So there will also be no transportation of pigs between districts. We will also see what can be done about pigs passing through our state.

"We will have a surveillance zone within 10 km radius so that no pigs are transported out of the area or no feed is moved from a different location. We will also do GPS mapping," Bora said.

He, however, said the spread of the disease so far has been limited to 306 villages in seven districts of the state.

The disease was detected towards the end of February. It started in April 2019 at a village in Xizang province in China bordering Arunachal Pradesh, Bora said.

Usually, stray pigs get infected with such viruses, but of late those in the farms have also been found afflicted with the disease.

 The animal husbandry department initially started administering classical swine flu vaccine but it was stopped due to the scare that the disease could spread through the doctor.

"However, it (African swine fever) never affects humans. There is no problem in consuming pork from the areas where there is no infection. We will conduct awareness and training of farmers. We have selected 13 districts for this purpose," the minister said.

He also said the government has formed district-level committees to enforce the relevant guidelines like not allowing the animals to roam freely and keeping them in enclosures.

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