Monday, March 20, 2023

ASF re-emerges

Monsoon also heralds the onset of various diseases related with the environment. Monsoon does reduce the body immunity and makes it susceptible to many diseases commonly associated with the weather. There have been some severe cases of viral fever and malaria while health authorities are working on various ways to combat threat from these diseases. What is also a matter of concern is the report that Swine flu or African Swine Flu (ASF)has remerged in parts of North East and also in Nagaland’s Mokokchung and Longleng districts, as per reports. Swine fever, according to medical science, is a respiratory disease, caused by influenza type A which infects pigs. There are several types and the infection is constantly changing. Medical science states that the virus contains genetic material that is typically found in strains of the virus that affect humans, birds and swine. According to WHO, the current strain of swine virus has become pandemic and contagious, spreading from human to human. The virus strand has mutated and is increasingly becoming adept at spreading to humans, a fact that has compelled the WHO in raising the alert level to Phase 4. Three states in the Northeast, namely Mizoram, Sikkim and Assam, are seeing an outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) cases – a highly contagious viral disease affecting pigs. ASF continues to wreak havoc in Mizoram as the dreaded swine disease has currently affected 31 villages and localities across six districts. With 25 deaths on Sunday, as many as 1,983 pigs have so far been killed since the fresh outbreak of the swine disease in February. In August 2021, over 25,000 pigs died due ASF in five months since late March 2021 in Mizoram, causing a huge loss to pig farmers. In Assam the animal husbandry and veterinary department has culled 70 pigs infected with ASF under Biswanath district. In Tripura, over 225 pigs and piglets were culled by the Tripura Animal Resource Department (ARD)at a farm in Sehahijala district. In Meghalaya, At least 259 pigs have died in Meghalaya’s Ri-Bhoi district this year due to African Swine Fever (ASF), a senior official of the Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Department informed.Sikkim has recorded many cases of ASF in various locations in Gangtok, Pakyong, Mangan and Namchi Districts. Northeastern states consume about 70 per cent of the country’s total domestic pork production. If ASF has already been reported in Nagaland’s inner districts, there is no guarantee that it has not infected pigs in Dimapur district. In Nagaland, pig rearing is popular and many people built pig sty within the premises. This heightens threat of ASF spreading to humans. It is also necessary that health authorities including veterinarians also watch out for possible outbreak of Japanese encephalitis. Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne disease caused by the Japanese encephalitis virus and spread primarily by the Culex mosquito. In both swine fever and JE, pigs are the intermediate hosts from where humans are infected. Transmission of ASF is very rapid and quickly engulfs the entire pig population. It is very difficult to differentiate classical swine fever from ASF since clinical symptoms overlap. With no cure or vaccine for ASF, isolation or culling are the only ways to curb the spread of this highly contagious disease which transmits through direct contact with sick animals or from anything contaminated – water, soil, feed, objects like shoes, vehicles and farm equipment, live or dead pigs or even pork products.

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