African Swine Fever

  • 07 May 2020

  • The central government has advised authorities in Assam to go for culling of pigs affected by the African Swine Fever (ASF) after thousands were found to have died from the illness in the past several weeks.

Origin of Current Outbreak

  • 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.
  • In China, the first ASF outbreak was confirmed in August 2018.
  • In Vietnam, the ASF outbreak was confirmed in February 2019.
  • Possibly, ASF came into India through Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh and then into Assam, the state with the highest population of pigs in the country.

About African Swine Fever (ASF)

  • ASF is a severe, highly-contagious hemorrhagic viral disease of domestic and wild pigs.
  • It is caused by a large DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family, which also infects ticks of the genus
  • It is a disease listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and must be reported to the OIE.
  • It was first detected in Africa in the 1920s.

Transmission and Spread

  • 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.
  • It can also be transmitted through biological vectors—soft ticks of the genus Ornithodoros where present.
  • The disease is characterised by the sudden deaths of pigs. Other manifestations of the disease include high fever, depression, anorexia, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin, vomiting and diarrhoea among others.

Difference from Swine Flu

  • Swine influenza or swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs, which is caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pig populations.
  • While the swine flu causing virus leads to a high number of infections in pig herds, the disease is not as fatal and causes few deaths. Specific swine influenza vaccines are available for pigs.

Public Health Risk

African swine fever is not a risk to human health. While swine flu can spread from animals to humans, African swine fever does not and therefore is not a public health threat.

Assam Government Strategy to Deal with ASF

  • Since ASF has no vaccination, it is advisable that the infected pigs are culled. Culling is the only option but we are not doing that right now.
  • Currently, the dead pigs are undergoing deep burials, with salt and bleaching powder.
  • The authorities have advised all pig farmers to contain the spread through bio-security.