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Centre�s directive for containment

By Sivasish Thakur

GUWAHATI, May 2 - With the Bhopal-based National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) confirming the epidemic of African swine fever in Assam, the Centre has issued directives to the State government for containment of the disease on a war-footing.

Significantly, this marks the first time that African swine fever has been reported in the country � something that has caught the authorities on the wrong foot. Matters stand worsened because the disease does not have any vaccine nor is any treatment available.

Given that Assam has a large population of wild boars and they are often found to be intermingling with domestic pigs near their habitats, the dangers stemming from the swine fever could be catastrophic for wildlife as well.

Confirming the developments, Agriculture and Veterinary & Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora told The Assam Tribune that the department is working out a containment plan for checking the spread of the disease. He added that the government might also be compelled to go for culling of pigs to contain the outbreak.

�A high-power committee with scientists, farmers� representatives and departmental officials has been formed to monitor the situation closely and execute the relevant guidelines strictly. We are working on a war-footing, as there is no cure to the disease and the virus spreads rapidly. Humans can also become carriers of the virus and infect pigs even though it does not cause disease in humans,� he said, adding that the forest department has also been alerted on the situation and asked to monitor the behaviour of wild boars.

Bora added that the veterinary colleges had been instructed to work on the ground and facilitate creation of containment zones as per Centre�s directives. Assam has a domestic pig population of over 21 lakhs.

�It is an extremely serious situation, akin to the one induced by the coronavirus. We are identifying all the infected areas so that containment zones can be created to check further spread. We are also activating and strengthening the veterinary labs for effective surveillance,� he said.

Bora said that the situation would also impact the livelihoods of lakhs of people engaged with piggery. �Piggery has been among the most-preferred enterprises in the State that provide livelihood to thousands of families. They are going to face huge loss in such a situation. But we are confident of checking the spread with timely action,� he said. The African Swine Fever, which has mortality rates between 90 per cent to 100 per cent, has so far killed over 2,500 pigs in the districts of Dhemaji, Sivasagar, Biswanath, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh and Jorhat.

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