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African Swine Flu reaches India; 2,500 pigs died in Assam

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on May 04, 2020 Published on May 04, 2020

A representative image   -  REUTERS

The Assam government on Sunday informed that the first case of African Swine Flu has been detected in the state that has killed more than 2500 pigs in 306 villages, as per media reports.

However, the state government maintained that they will not cull the population of pigs immediately even after the Centre gave the nod to it. The state government is mulling on alternative measures to contain the spread of the contagious disease, Assam Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Minister Atul Bora said at a press conference.

He added that the disease has no relation at all with COVID-19. "The National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, has confirmed that it is African Swine Flu (ASF). The central government has informed us that it is the first instance of the disease in the country," Bora said.

As per a 2019 census by the department, the pig population was 21 lakh, but it has increased in recent times to around 30 lakh, he further 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 a one-km radius of the infected area and test them, he mentioned.

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

According to Bora, the testing going on in three labs in Assam will not be enough to trace and contain the virus, and the administrative department has to contact the Health Department for the same.

The minister has urged the neighbouring states to take steps so that there is no movement of pigs. "The virus spreads through pig's meat, saliva, blood, and tissue. So there will be no transportation of pigs between districts. We will also check what can be done to the pigs passing through our state.

"We will have a surveillance zone within a 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 disease has not spread much yet, and around 2,500 pigs have died due to ASF across 306 villages in seven districts in the state.

"The disease was detected during the last part of February. However, it started in April 2019 in China at a village of Xizang province bordering Arunachal Pradesh. It is suspected that the disease crossed over to Arunachal Pradesh and then reached Assam," Bora said.

Usually, pigs roaming freely are infected, but of late, those in the farms are also seen affected, he added.

"In a particular case of one farmer, whose 230 pigs have died, his employee's personal pig died due to this. So it is suspected that the employee carried the virus from his home to the farm and got the pigs infected. We have seen it in some other farms also. So humans also carry this virus," Bora said.

The minister claimed that it never affects humans, adding that 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.

He also said that the government has formed district-level committees to implement the guidelines such as pigs will not be allowed to roam freely and the farmers will have to keep them in enclosures.

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Published on May 04, 2020
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