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African Swine Fever

Tue 28 Jul, 2020

The porcine industry in Assam suffered major losses during the COVID-19 lockdown, which was followed by an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) that has killed more than 17,000 pigs in Assam and over 4,500 in Arunachal Pradesh.

What is African Swine Fever?

  • ASF is a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever. • Its routes of transmission include direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead), indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage, or through biological vectors such as ticks.
  • The disease is characterised by sudden deaths in pigs. 
  • Other manifestations of the disease include high fever, depression, anorexia, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin, vomiting and diarrhoea among others.
  • African Swine Fever (ASF) does not affect humans but can be catastrophic for pigs. 
  • Although ASF is lethal, it is less infectious than other animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. But as of now, there is no approved vaccine, which is also a reason why animals are culled to prevent the spread of infection

How did the current outbreak start?

  • As per the latest update issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the current outbreak of ASF has affected China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Indonesia among others.
  • Officials believe ASF came into India through Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh and then into Assam, the state with the highest population of pigs in the country. Even so, the route of infection remains unconfirmed.

What has been the impact of the outbreak?

  • In China (home to half of the world’s pig population), the outbreak of the disease led to cullings on a massive scale leading to an increase in the price of pork, the country’s favourite protein.
  • The outbreak has not only affected pork consumers but small farmers as well, who do not have the resources to protect their pigs from the disease.
  • For pig farmers in Assam, the disease has come as a “double whammy”, where their sales were already affected by the lockdown only to become worse with ASF.
  • The unmet demand of pork is also likely to drive up the prices of other meats.