Government spends millions in managing African Swine Fever outbreaks

Despite the ban on the import of pork, southern districts in the country continue to report frequent outbreaks of African swine fever. The government has spent nearly Nu 30 M in managing nine outbreaks and compensating the affected farm owners since 2021 when Phuentshogling reported the first outbreak.

African swine fever is a highly contagious viral disease of both wild and domestic pigs with a high chance of illness and death. Veterinary officials say there is no vaccine or treatment for this disease.

The nine cases of outbreak of African swine fever in the south include the recent outbreak at Phurbaling of Samphelling Gewog in Chhukha.

The outbreak was confirmed last Friday after one of the affected pigs died. Since then, the officials have culled about ten pigs to prevent it from spreading further.

“Immediate control measures are important although it does not affect humans. This is because it can spread to other parts of the country from the southern districts and then incur huge losses to those farmers rearing pigs. Moreover, there is the risk of spreading it to wild boars thereby creating ecosystem imbalance and environmental impacts,” said Dr Chendu Dorji, regional veterinary officer in Phuentshogling.

He said that it can also lead to a huge burden on the country as it incurs huge expenses. The expenditure includes the cost incurred in compensating affected farms well as the containment cost.

Officials attribute the outbreaks to the illegal import of meat items, especially pork. So far, Nu 3.7 M has been collected as fines from the illegal import of pork since its ban last year.

“In 2020, there was a massive outbreak in our neighbouring country, India. Then our country also reported the outbreak in 2021. This is because all our piggery farms are located in southern districts and also, we have a porous border. Moreover, farms lack biosecurity. And it also spreads by birds flying from a contaminated area to another farm. Also, many people travelling illegally import pork so it spreads from it,” added Dr Chendu.

Feeding uncooked garbage to pigs, especially kitchen waste that contains infected meat is another cause of the outbreak.

Southern districts such as Chhukha, Samdrup Jongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse, and Dagana have been reporting African swine fever since 2021 with each district detecting multiple outbreaks. Officials say currently, there is an outbreak in Sarpang as well.

Meanwhile, in Phurbaling, the nearby areas are under surveillance and officials will be disinfecting the affected areas for about a week.

Kinley Dem, Chhukha

Edited by Phub Gyem

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