Chhimi Dema 

The outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in a semi-commercial pig farm in Samphelling gewog in Chukha on April 17 killed 44 pigs. Seven pigs were reported sick as of yesterday.

There are 615 pigs at risk of getting infected by ASF in the affected area.

It was learnt that ASF is a highly contagious viral disease that causes up to 100 percent mortality in affected farms.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, the infected animal experience high fever, respiratory distress, reddening of skin, diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite and weakness, abortion in pregnant sows and sudden death.

“Although ASF does not affect humans, it can cause catastrophic socio-economic consequences for the pig farming sector,” it stated.

For immediate containment and response to the outbreak, the National Incident Command Committee has started the incident operation centre at Phuentsholing thromde’s veterinary hospital and satellite laboratory.

According to the agriculture ministry, there are no effective vaccines and treatments available for the prevention and control of ASF.

“Based on the risk assessment, pre-emptive culling of the pig population is adopted to prevent the spread of the virus from the affected areas,” the press release stated.

It also stated that due to the risk of disease spreading from the affected area, the movement of all livestock and livestock products shall be banned from Samphelling gewog of Chukha dzongkhag until further notice.

It stated that based on the risk assessment, the Department of Livestock (DoL) will provide information on the relaxation of the ban on livestock and livestock products in a phased manner. “However, the import of pig and pig products from the certified suppliers shall remain unchanged.”

The disease was confirmed by the National Centre for Animal Health, Serbithang, using real time-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test.

The current outbreak of ASF in the country is reported following the recent reports of outbreaks in the region including the north-eastern states of India.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations reports that ASF was first reported in the Asia-Pacific region in August 2018.

It stated that the disease has rapidly swept through the region leading to the culling of 100s of millions of pigs to control its spread, threatening food security among communities dependent on pig farming.

 As of June 2021, 15 member countries in the region have reported ASF outbreaks. 

The ministry cautions pig farmers to enhance farm biosecurity and implement good animal husbandry practices.

Individuals are requested to report any instances of unusual illness and mortality in pigs, and sale and movement of live pigs, pork and pork products out of the infected areas to the following toll-free numbers: 1244 (DoL) or 1555 (BAFRA).