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Mystery behind pig disease solved


GUWAHATI, May 2 - Finally, the mystery surrounding the disease that has been perturbing pig farmers of Assam has been solved.

The Bhopal-based National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has declared that all pig tissue samples collected by the state and sent to it have tested positive for African Swine Fever (ASF) virus.

ASF is highly harmful for the livestock economy and so far there is no treatment available for this disease. Containment measures are its only plausible solutions till date.

The state had collected seven samples from diseased pigs of Pipalguri village of Dhemaji district, Bor-Tamuli 2 village of Biswanath district, Khelowa, Nitai Pukhuri and Kotori villages of Sivasagar district, Gorchuk area of Kamrup (Metro) district and Bormukali village of Jorhat district.

However, the samples sent by Arunachal Pradesh to the NIHSAD were either found to be �insufficient for testing� or �Negative for ASF�, said the institute, an Office International Des Epizooties (OIE) (or the World Organisation of Animal Health), Reference Laboratory for Avian Influenza.

It has declared the Assam pig samples as ASF positive after conducting the tests �by real-time PCR and nucleotide sequencing�.

According to official sources, the ASF has claimed the lives of 2,594 pigs in 330 villages of Dhemaji, Sivasagar, Biswanath, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh and Jorhat districts till date. With 1,155 cases of death, Sivasagar district recorded the highest mortality figure till date.

Veterinary experts here are of the opinion that there is no approved vaccine against ASF, unlike the classical swine fever, which is caused by a different virus. Historically, outbreaks of ASF have been reported from Africa and parts of Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Since 2007, the disease has been reported from several countries of Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic as well as wild pigs.

Noted animal virologist Dr Paresh Chandra Sarma described this disease as an �exotic one� and said that the source of spread of this disease was yet to be determined. However, he said that it started in Jonai area, and then due to the lack of awareness among the people, it spread to five other districts.

Dr Sarma also said that this was not at all a zoonotic disease, and there is no possibility of its spread from animals to humans.

The general practice of throwing the carcasses of diseased pigs into the rivers and rivulets, a little bit of delay in imposing restriction on pig movement and sale of pork, the unscientific method of pig rearing, etc., have been found to be the factors responsible for the spread of this disease.

As preventive measures, he said, containment zones are to be notified taking an area within the one-km radius of the epicentres of the disease for the purpose and pigs falling within this area are to be culled.

Surveillance zones are also to be notified taking the areas of some plausible distance around such containment zones for the purpose of keen observation and preventive measures to check spread of the disease and finally to control it. Assam also needs to strengthen its State Laboratories for a strong and effective surveillance system, said Dr Sarma.

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