Chhimi Dema 

The outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious viral disease of pigs, killed 12 pigs and affected seven in three piggery farms in Gelephu gewog as of November 30.

About 30 piggeries with 400 pigs near the two infected villages, Pemathang and Raitar, are at risk of getting infected with the disease.

The first case of ASF was suspected on November 25 in Gelephu. It was confirmed by the National Centre for Animal Health (RCDC), Serbithang, using real time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test on November 29.

For immediate containment and response to the outbreak, the National Incident Command Committee started the incident operation centre in Gelephu yesterday.

Incident Commander, Dr Jambay Dorjee, said that the team carried out risk and situational assessment in villages surrounding the affected villages. “The assessments will determine what containment measures should be taken in the villages.”

The national incident command committee is meeting today to map the areas in different zones–infected, surveillance and protection, and decide on additional measures to contain the spread of the disease.

The team will also carry out rapid tests on the pigs and send samples to RCDC for RT-PCR tests. Jambay Dorjee said, “By this weekend, the team will finish cleaning out all the infected farms.”

ASF is a contagious viral disease affecting pigs of all ages, inducing a haemorrhagic fever.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, the outbreak of the disease in 2018 in China was the first occurrence of ASF in Asia. Since then, the disease continued to spread in the region, affecting 16 countries as of 2021.

Jambay Dorji said that the outbreak of ASF has a huge impact on the socio-economic status of the farmers because the only measure to control the disease is to cull the infected pigs.

“We cannot determine the cause of the outbreak in the villages but we have some indication that it could be from the illegal import of pork and its products,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests notification issued on November 30 stated the disease is spread through contact between pigs (domestic or wild), contaminated pig products, feeding pigs with kitchen wastes contaminated with pork products, and through the movement of contaminated personnel and farm equipment.

The ministry urged the pig farmers to heighten biosecurity in their farms, ensure kitchen wastes are properly cooked before feeding to the pigs and prevent domestic pigs from coming into contact with wild pigs.