Even as the country is still battling the Covid-19 pandemic, Assam is fighting on an additional front as the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) has killed over 13,000 pigs in the state. The new disease has threatened to affect the livelihood of thousands of already economically distressed people in Assam and surrounding states. Earlier in Arunachal Pradesh, too, there were reports of pigs dying after fever.
Calling the situation “serious”, Assam’s Animal Husbandry, Veterinary and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora said that 13,033 pigs died in nine districts of the state during the past several weeks. He also reminded that this infection is spreading very fast. The ASF has so far engulfed nine districts of Assam: Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur, Biswanath, Majuli, Golaghat and Kamrup.
It is believed that wild pigs may have come in contact with domestic pigs, from which this disease is spreading. Therefore, a canal has been dug in the Agoratoli range near the Kaziranga National Park, so that wild pigs don’t enter the surrounding villages. “The Kaziranga National Park authority has dug a two-km long and six-feet deep trench to protect its wild boars from the outbreak of the contagious ASF,” said Bora, who visited the National Park and adjoining villages and reviewed the steps taken to protect the wild boars from the disease.
The minister said that his department has been working for several weeks to deal with the highly infectious ASF disease, whose mortality rate is 90-100%. “We have already taken a series of steps, including creation of containment zones, within one km radius of an infected area and surveillance zone within 10 km, to prevent spread of the virus to other adjoining districts.
We have formed a committee with officials, experts, specialists and pig farmers and are working according to their advice,” he added. Bora said that information has been provided to the Central government about this mysterious disease. As of now, no order has been issued by the Assam government to kill the pigs. On the other hand, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal anyone sees any disease in pigs, then the Veterinary and Forest Department should be informed immediately to save them. In September 2019, a large number of pigs died in China due to ASF.
It is believed that African swine fever came from China to Tibet. Then from there reached Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. The first ASF outbreak took place in China in August 2018. Since then, nearly one million pigs have been killed in that country. At the same time, the outbreak of the disease occurred in Vietnam in February 2019, and 60 lakh pigs got killed there.
According to the 2019 census, Assam had over 21 lakh pigs, which could have increased to around 30 lakh now. The Northeast’s annual pork business is worth around Rs 8,000-10,000 crore, with Assam being the largest supplier. According to experts, humans don’t get infected by ASF, but they could be the carriers of the virus. No vaccines or medicines have been discovered so far. With agency inputs