African Swine Fever kills 2,800 pigs in Assam
At a time when Assam, much like the rest of the world, has dedicated its healthcare infrastructure towards fighting the battle against coronavirus, the African Swine Fever has jolted the state. As many as 2,800 pigs have died in Assam since February. It is believed this disease came from China, just like COVID-19. This is the first time ASF has been detected in India.
Reports claimed domestic pigs died across 306 villages, but villagers contest the government numbers. They said 30,000 pigs died in just two weeks, reports The Print. Home to over 20 lakh pigs, Assam leads the Rs. 8,000 crore pork market in the Northeast, which makes this outbreak a reason for concern. While swine flu spreads from animals to humans, swine fever, fortunately, does not.
A highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease, ASF is usually found in areas like Asia, Europe, and Africa, after it was first detected in Kenya in 1921. A large DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family causes this disease, said WHO. Healthy pigs catch the disease through infected swines directly, or through ingestion of contaminated substances indirectly. To note, ASF is resistant to sunlight.
The symptoms of this disease include weight loss, intermittent fever, respiratory signs, chronic skin ulcers, and arthritis. In acute cases, it causes high fever, anorexia, loss of appetite, and hemorrhages in the skin. Its mortality rate ranges between 30 and 70%.
Before coronavirus originated in China last year, the nation was grappling with the outbreak of ASF between 2018 and 2019. China's Shenyang province was battered due to the disease in 2018. It later spread to countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, East Timor, and South Korea. It is estimated that more than 100 million pigs died in China in 2019 alone.
Moreover, China was accused of hiding crucial information. "Cover-ups across China — coupled with under financing of relief for devastated pig farmers and weak enforcement of restrictions on pork transport and slaughter — have enabled the spread of the livestock virus to the point where it now threatens pig farmers worldwide, according to veterinarians, industry analysts and hog producers," a Reuters report said.
With a number of cases being reported from Assam, authorities are scrambling to save pigs. Not long ago, 26 carcasses were found floating in the Brahmaputra river raising concerns about water being contaminated. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal urged the Veterinary and Forest Departments to team up with the National Pig Research Centre of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and prepare a roadmap.
Though the Centre suggested culling animals, the state is looking for other options. "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%. So we have made some strategies to save the pigs, which are not affected by the virus," Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora said.