Animal health, provincial officials differ on reasons for swine fever outbreak

By Vo Hai   March 15, 2019 | 07:59 pm PT
Animal health, provincial officials differ on reasons for swine fever outbreak
A quick response team in Hanoi engages in a quarantine practice to fight African swine fever. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
The reasons cited by animal health officials for the African swine fever outbreak do not match local conditions, provincial authorities say.

The differences came to the fore at an emergency meeting convened Thursday afternoon by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with 17 provinces and cities so far affected by the African swine fever.

Pham Van Dong, director of Animal Health Department, said initial investigations indicate that many livestock farmers and traders have not fully realized the dangerous nature of the fever; and continue to trade, transport, slaughter and consume infected pigs.

There are also those who engage in these activities for immediate benefit, disregarding the risks involved, the director said.

The virus remains for long in its infected pig, in fresh meat, in the environment and even on tools. Meanwhile, small scale establishments with a high density of animals, where the farm is part of the farmers’ living environment; do not implement disease-prevention measures regularly.

More than 23,000 pigs have been killed so far and the disease has mainly broken out in small households with poor sanitation and bio-security conditions, and has not appeared in regulated farms, it was noted at the meeting.

The animal health department also noted that it was very likely that the disease would continue to spread.

Dong said that investigation of 44 outbreaks showed that a majority of them were caused by transporting, trading and slaughtering of infected pigs.

Because there is not yet a vaccine, the response to African swine fever is mainly lime powder and toxic cleanser. Photo: Ngoc Thanh.

An area is disinfected with lime powder and chemicals following detection of swine fever. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Not really

Representatives of many provinces at the meeting said that the local outbreaks were not caused by the factors mentioned by the animal health officials.

Do Thi Minh Hoa, Vice Chairman of Bac Kan Province, said that only one pig was infected with African swine fever in the province. This pig had been raised for nine months by a household.

The disease had occurred in a mountainous district, where there’s just one motorbike path to get to the infected area, so it would have been difficult for the disease to spread because of the factors announced by the department, she said.

As in Bac Kan, the disease in Dien Bien Province was discovered in remote villages, more than 10km from the main road. These are places where most inhabitants are ethnic minority households with little interaction with the outside world, so "the province cannot determine the cause of the spread," said Lo Van Tien, Vice Chairman of Dien Bien.

"Locals here have a habit that when their pigs fall ill or die, they gather their relatives to slaughter and eat the meat, and also take it home as leftover. We think this is maybe one of the reasons," he said.

Officials in Ha Nam Province said they have not been able to decide the cause of spread of the disease in their area.

Agriculture Minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong said the animal health department should soon determine the real causes of the spread of African swine fever in Vietnam.

"This is a very important issue, because knowing the cause will make proposed solutions effective," Cuong said.

According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), African swine fever is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs. Mortality rates are usually 100 percent.

The virus spreads through bodily fluids such as blood and mucus, causing hemorrhagic fever. There is currently no cure for it.

However, it is not a risk to human health and other types of animals, experts have said.

Twenty countries and territories have reported outbreaks of the disease since 2017 and over one million pigs have been culled, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. Vietnam is the third Asian country hit by the disease, following China and Mongolia.

In Vietnam, the first outbreak this year was spotted in Hung Yen Province on February 1. As of last Monday, the epidemic had spread to 17 provinces and cities in northern and north central Vietnam, including the capital Hanoi.

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