Amid the lockdown, a new pyrexia has come to the surface in the pigs farm of Assam which has jolted the state. The fever is termed as African Swine Fever (ASF) and was first detected in Kenya in the year 1909, which is now spread to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe. This disease has no relation with COVID-19. The virus is a contagious hemorrhagic viral illness which affects wild and domestic pigs and spreads through its meat, saliva, blood and tissue. The World Health Organisation for Animal Health has declared that the flu is primarily caused by the virus of the ‘Asfarviridae’ family. Even the healthy pigs can get affected by the disease if they happen to come in direct contact with the domestic and wild ones. The ASF is defiant to the process of decay and is also resistant to sunlight. The flu can be found in refrigerated meat and the body remains of the pigs for more than six months if they are frozen.
Interestingly, before China was grasped with novel coronavirus, the country was already facing an outbreak of ASF since 2018. From China it spread to the Philippines, Vietnam, East Timor and South Korea. Due to this illness, China lost hundred million pigs in the year 2019. Mr. Atul Bora, Minster Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Minister assumes that the disease came from China to Assam crossing Arunachal Pradesh as they had dumped the carcasses of pigs in the river. Recently, a fresh case was also reported in China on 2nd April, 2020 in the Gansu province which lies in the northwest part of the country. Critics have accused China for hiding the seriousness of this flu.
In India, till now samples from the two states - Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have been sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal for confirmation. The very first case of the flu was detected and confirmed in Assam. In a short while, more than 2,800 pigs across 306 villages were killed in the state. Transportation of pigs between districts of Assam has been brought to halt. There are around twenty lakh pigs in Assam and the government has recommended culling of all that are affected by the AFS. This will lead to market setback and could prove to be a disaster for the meat industry of the state as it accounts for eight thousand crore pork market in the northeast. Moreover, if the flu spreads to other parts of the country, it will remain a challenge to overcome the situation in the middle of the already existing pandemic. Hence, it is important for the government to look into the matter and take suitable measures to combat this issue.
Dr. Neha Sinha is a Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs, Delhi.