6 May, Thimphu: Bhutan prepares for emergency response actions to tackle African Swine Fever (ASF) following the report of ASF mortality in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, India on May 2. The case was confirmed by the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal.
ASF is a severe viral disease of pigs affecting both domestic and wild pigs. It does not directly affect public health and does not transmit from animals to humans. It is a terminal and highly infectious viral disease which causes a serious impact on the pig population and there is no vaccine nor cure for ASF. It can be spread by live or dead pigs and pork and occur via contaminated feed and objects such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives and other equipment. The disease has been spreading globally for several years since its first report from China in August 2018.
To prevent the disease from entering into the country, officials from the Department of Livestock (DoL) and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) met on May 4 to discuss the emergency preventive measures.
According to DoL, the joint team is assessing the risk of ASF incursion through legal and illegal imports of animal feed, equipment and other materials as well as wild pig movement across the border. The existing pig population both commercial and scavenging pigs in the risk areas are being mapped. The information generated from the study will be used for updating the ASF emergency preparedness plan.
DoL is disseminating the appropriate awareness and educational materials to the relevant officials and communities. DoL is also trying to minimise the risk of ASF exposure by ensuring proper bio-security measures and prohibiting taking high-risk materials such as pork inside the farm premises. Further, the National Centre for Animal Health in Serbithang is equipped to quickly detect any incursion of ASF into the country through polymerase chain reaction test kit.
In addition, BAFRA is taking lead in sensitising the meat vendors and traders on the importance of ASF prevention and control measures. To regulate and prohibit the import of risk materials, BAFRA is also vigilant at all the entry points.
The team is also reviewing the draft emergency preparedness and response plan for ASF. It will be finalised and tested through desktop and field simulation exercises.
While all measures to prevent ASF incursion into the country are put in place, the Ministry urges the general people not to bring meat from all animal species including fresh, dried, frozen, cooked, smoked, salted or preserved into Bhutan. Any travelers carrying these goods are requested to declare them at the entry point.
Pig farmers are advised not to feed any pork or pork products to pigs as this is the greatest risk for ASF spread. Besides, those individuals who raise or rescue pigs for Tshethar purposes are advised to confine the pigs as the mixing of domestic pigs with the wild pigs pose a threat for an incursion of disease. Meanwhile, the Ministry shall notify the status to all the stakeholders based on the risk assessment.
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