Assam swine fever death toll rises

The animal disease has never been reported in India before

The outbreak of African swine fever (AFS) amid the COVID-19 pandemic has claimed more than 2,900 domestic pigs although veterinary officials said the rate of death has decreased over the last 48 hours.

Officials said they have not yet been able to crack the AFS “mystery”. The disease first detected in Kenya in 1921 had never been reported in India before.

Data provided by the State’s Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Department said 2,904 pigs died till 5 pm of Tuesday. The deaths were reported from 310 villages across six eastern Assam districts.

On Monday, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal asked the Veterinary and Forest departments to work with the National Pig Research Centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research for saving the State’s pig population.

According to a 2019 census, the State has 21 lakh domestic pigs and more than 7 lakh farmers are involved in rearing them for the pork business worth at least Rs. 8,000 crore annually in the northeast.

“The Chief Minister asked doctors and other functionaries to ensure cleanliness and total sanitisation of the pig habitable areas and use disinfectants,” a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office said.

‘No vaccine’

Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Minister Atul Bora said combating AFS was proving to be a challenge since no vaccine or medicine has been discovered so far.

“The AFS mortality rate is almost 100%. The focus is on preventing the disease from spreading and we have worked out some plans in consultation with officials, veterinary experts and pig farmers,” he said. He added that the government was weighing options other than culling, as advised by the Centre.

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