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Containing African Swine Fever as difficult as COVID-19: expert

By Correspondent

SIVASAGAR, May 4 - With the formal declaration by the government that the large-scale death of pigs in seven upper Assam districts is due to African Swine Fever originating from Xinjiang province of China which has no vaccine as yet, frustration among a section of the livestock farmers here is visible. Some others are simply waiting for fresh instructions from Khanapara where a high-level meeting of the concerned Ministry and pig farmers took place on Sunday.

The subject specialists warn that the only way to contain the virus spread is to identify the containment zones and maintain surveillance measures strictly preventing free ranging of pigs. In Sivasagar district, about 4,000 pigs have died since February though the official figures are half of that. Dr Aksharibhut Keshori, District Veterinary Officer of the district told media yesterday that the death rate in the African Swine fever is 100 per cent, it spreads rapidly and is as difficult as to contain as COVID-19. He added that there is no treatment for the affected pigs, which has posed a grave threat to the 80,000 plus pig population of the district.

In the worst-hit Panidihing mouza, Gautom Barua of Nitaipukhuri Bhatgaj village told this correspondent yesterday that he has lost 53 pigs, the entire population in his farm and is clueless what to do next. Like him there are many who have lost their entire animals. According to Dipok Bora of Nitai-Panidihing, 90 per cent of the pig population has perished in the swine fever and most of the deaths go unreported in the veterinary hospitals.

Dr Jyotirmay Saharia, surgeon, Katiori Veterinary dispensary said on Sunday that already 2,280 doses of vaccines had been administered in 28 villages under his office against classical swine fever, but as the fever has been identified as of African origin, the vaccination programme has been stopped as it would require fresh medicines now. The only way to contain the spread of the present virus is culling or selective slaughter in the affected areas which is also a huge social problem, he added. The Sivasagar DC Lakhinandan Gogoi took prompt measures to inform the higher authority about reports of death of pigs and instructed the Veterinary department officials to visit the affected areas for controlling the situation.

In Nazira subdivision, the swine fever has not erupted in an epidemic form yet and the sub divisional veterinary officer Dr Jagadish Barman has taken proactive steps like widespread awareness meetings in the rural regions with the help of the civil administration and pamphlet distribution among pig farmers to adopt stringent preventive measures. In an awareness meeting at the Nazira GP office on May 1, Dr Barman in the presence of the Nazira SDO (Civil), Sampreety Goswami and GP president and other members spoke in details about the precautions necessary like keeping the farms clean with use of bleaching powder, lime powder, Kohrolin or veroxide in required measure.

In the case of death of the animal, the veterinarian cautioned the farmers not to throw the carcasses into ponds or rivers as the act will help the disease spread to a larger region quickly as has already been reported from Nitai-Panidihing region.

The carcasses of the dead animals should be buried as quickly as possible in at least a 6-foot-deep crater with common salt, urea, bleaching powder or other disinfectants. He also added that all precautions and preventive measures the Health department urges on the public to follow in the wake of the Covid-19 spread, are equally applicable to the swine fever outbreak also, though is not zoonotic in nature.

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