Only way to contain the virus is to cull the infected, in-contact pigs and bury them in lime-treated deep trenches
African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious haemorrhagic viral infection that afflicts domestic and wild pigs and boars with a near 100 per cent mortality rate, has spread to 49 countries since January 2021, according to a new report.
ASF has resulted in around 1.5 million animal losses since 2021, affecting more than 0.95 million pigs and more than 28,000 wild boars, noted the document released by World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) on August 21, 2023.
The 49 countries were located in five different world regions of Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe and Oceania, said WOAH, an intergovernmental organisation established in 1924 to disseminate information on animal diseases and improve animal health globally.
The livestock disease was first reported in Kenya in 1921. The highest losses of domestic pigs were reported from Europe (one million), followed by Asia (0.37 million and Africa (24,143). Losses are calculated based on the number of animals died as well as killed and disposed of due to the disease.
The losses could be much more than these figures as according to the report, the figures refer to losses in the establishments affected by the outbreaks and do not include the animals culled in areas around the outbreak to control the disease.
In fact, since January 2021, nine countries have reported ASF as a first occurrence, while 10 countries reported its spread to new zones. “This highlights a continuous spread of the disease into new countries and new zones in countries already affected,” warned WOAH.
This spread confirms the global threat of the disease and highlights the importance of implementing biosecurity measures, an early reporting and response system and maintaining a high level of disease awareness among all actors involved in the value chain.
India managed to avert the virus for a century, with the first case only reported in 2020, after its advent in China in 2018 decimated porcine populations across Asia.
There is no cure or vaccine to contain the African swine fever virus that spreads through soft ticks and quickly engulfs the entire pig population. The only way to contain it is to cull the infected and in-contact pigs and bury them in lime-treated deep trenches.
In India, after the first ASF outbreaks occurred in Assam in January 2020, cases were also reported from other north-eastern states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Following this, the disease spread to Bihar, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.
In September 2022, Down To Earth reported how the disease also hit the bio-secure environment of the Assam government’s pig-breeding farm and the ICAR-National Research Centre on Pig, both in Guwahati. This resulted in the death of three pigs and the culling of approximately 292 in the last two weeks.
The virus was first reported in three pigs in the state government-run breeding farm in Guwahati’s Khanapara area, after their samples were sent to North Eastern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Guwahati.
The disease is still prevalent in India, with the most recent cases reported in May and June 2023 from Meghalaya and Mizoram, respectively.
WOAH recommended veterinary services to remain vigilant and implement science-based international standards and guidelines in their national disease prevention and control programmes.
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