Assam drawing action plan to control African Swine Fever

Guwahati, May 6 (PTI) The Assam Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Department is working on war footing to draw an action plan for controlling the spread of the African Swine Fever, which has killed 2,900 pigs in the state since February, a minister said on Wednesday.

A task force is being set up under the department's secretary to check the disease and minimise loss to pig farmers, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora told PTI.

'Veterinary doctors and scientists are deeply involved in controlling spread of the disease,' Bora said.

Saying that an estimated 2,900 pigs had died due to the African swine fever, he said they were concerned about the potential spread of the disease to the Northeast.

'We do not want transportation of pigs from other parts of country to the region to avoid a crisis situation here,' Bora said.

Pointing out it is a fatal disease of pigs and the mortality rate was 100 per cent, Bora said humans and other animals were not infected by it.

Informing that the disease could occur also through fresh and frozen pork, he said: 'We have taken a decision to ban sale of pork in the six affected districts of Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Bishwanath, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar.' Reports of deaths of pigs from other districts have also come in. So far 306 affected villages have been identified in the six districts, the minister said.

By making containment zones in the identified districts to keep them in isolation, he said the dead animals are to be disposed in deep burial with salt and bleaching powder.

He said his department officials were assisting in such burials.

On the preventive measures need to be taken, the minister said: 'Adoption of strict biosecurity measures is the only preventive measure. We have directed that the domestic pigs be restricted to one area inside the farm premises so that the disease does not spread.' He said culling of infected animals was one of the preventive measures.

'If the situation demands, we will go for culling after taking the farmers opinion on it through discussions as many unemployed people in Assam are involved in the piggery industry for livelihood,' Bora said.

As per the Census report, 21 lakh people are involved in the industry, but as per our own calculation, nearly 30 lakh are engaged, he added.

The minister said he had spoken to the Centre so that the pig farmers do not have to face any crisis situation as a lot of their money is invested in this industry.

He added that the state government was collecting data for helping the farmers who suffered the losses due to the infection.

Stating the genesis of the disease is in Africa where it was detected first in 1921, the minister said it started in India for the first time in Arunachal Pradesh in January.

'We suspect it has come to Assam from Xingiang province through adjacent Arunachal Pradesh through wild boar,' he said. 'This virus remains active till about two-and-a-half years and there is no treatment for this disease.' For protecting the wild boars, his department had suggested to the Forest and Wildlife Department to keep the animals under surveillance in national parks and adjacent villages.

The state government's concern began when classical swine flu vaccine given routinely at this time and the regular medicines did not work, then samples were tested in a Guwahati laboratory where it was found to be African swine fever.

The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal where the samples were sent confirmed that it is African Swine Fever.

Bora said at the district level, the deputy commissioners had been given the responsibility to monitor the situation with teams of veterinary doctors and scientists sent to every district. PTI ESB SNS HMB