First Line Of Defense Against African Swine Fever Removed In Nagaland, Says Official - Eastern Mirror
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First line of defense against African swine fever removed in Nagaland, says Official

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Apr 20, 2024 11:36 pm
African swine fever
A team of Veterinary doctors and pig farm owners during the burial of pigs carcass affected by African Swine Fever at Kidima Village (Not EM images)

KOHIMA — Pig farmers in Nagaland are often at their wits’ end with African swine fever (ASF) outbreak being witnessed at regular intervals, the most recent and the second time this year being reported at a private pig farm in Kidima village of Kohima district. While precautionary measures have been taken to contain further spread of the contagious viral disease in the village, the source could not be traced.

To find out the source of the disease and contain the spread from the entry point itself, Dr. Ilang Zeliang, Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services, underscored the need to re-open the veterinary quarantine check post (QCP).

“The quarantine check post (QCP) is the first place to check the entry of emerging diseases or new diseases. This is the first line of defense,” he said during a recent interaction at his office chamber in Kohima Veterinary Hospital.

The government of Nagaland had closed the QCPs in line with the closure of police and excise check posts about two years ago, though the QCP was set up just to check whether animals entering the state had diseases, so that action could be taken accordingly.

With the first control line being deactivated, the department can no longer determine how the deadly ASF enters the state; it has to struggle to control the viral disease amid this limitation when cases emerge, the doctor said.

Stressing the need to start the control programme from the entry point, he appealed to the state government to reactivate the QCPs, the first line of defense for the deadly diseases that affects thousands of pig farmers every year.

The government extended the operation of QCPs for six months following a letter from the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services department but not beyond that, he said, adding that the directorate has submitted a letter again to reopen the check posts.

African swine fever
Dr. Ilang Zeliang (left) and Dr. Khriesamhazo George during the recent interaction in Kohima.

Four outbreaks since 2023

In Nagaland, the ASF was first reported in Kiphire district in 2022, reportedly entered from Assam, before it spread to other parts of the state, affecting districts like Phek, Mon, Mokokchung, Dimapur and Kohima, he informed.

During 2023-2024, four outbreaks were reported in the districts of Kohima, Tseminyu and Phek, causing huge economic loss, he said, adding that most cases go unreported as people don’t come forward to report.

In January this year, Thahekhu village in Dimapur reported ASF outbreak. It was reported again this month at a farm located about 3 km away from the inhabitants of Kidima, killing all the 62 pigs, he informed.

Upon receiving report from two entrepreneurs who were running the said farm, a team of veterinary doctors visited the site, conducted a post mortem and collected the samples. The samples were tested at two laboratories and the result returned positive for ASF on April 10. A team led by Dr. K George, In-charge of Elisa Laboratory, and the mobile veterinary unit doctors reached the site on April 11 for disinfection of the farm.

Following the unfortunate loss, the two entrepreneurs — Keleyol Vitso and Keyokul Rote – were said to have written a letter, seeking financial assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund, and the same had been forwarded by the department.

The only way to stop ASF

Pointing out that only way to stop the highly contagious disease is prevention, the veterinary doctor requested the pig farmers to remain vigilant and immediately report dead cases to the nearest veterinary health centre and dispensaries so that the department can come to the rescue.

It may be mentioned that the deputy commissioner of Kohima had declared Kidima village — 1 km radius of infected premises – as infected zone and 9 km radius from infected premises as surveillance zone, following the ASF outbreak.

It also banned the slaughter, import and export of pigs and piglets; transportation of pigs and pork, to contain the spread of the disease.

‘This is a very serious disease, which affects the farmer greatly. Therefore, the standard operating procedures, when an outbreak happens, have been laid down and given to the public for consumption and for action,’ it was informed.

The symptoms of ASF include skin colour turning into reddish or purplish.

Why CSF vaccine doesn’t work

There is no vaccine for ASF despite its high mortality rate, while there is vaccine for classical swine fever (CSF), which is endemic within Nagaland and the department carries out vaccination as well as supplies the medicine in the state.

It was informed that some seek CSF vaccine from the department whenever ASF outbreak is reported, thinking that it would prevent ASF but that it wouldn’t work as the former is treatable while the latter isn’t.

Dr. Ilang Zeliang also cautioned that conducting vaccination during an outbreak would only spread the disease further, so it should not be carried out in infected zones. 

Step-by-step precautionary measures

Dr. Khriesamhazo George, VAS and ELISA lab in-charge, said that neighbouring villages (of Kidima) have been asked to take precaution with the ASF outbreak having started.

The first precautionary measure one should take is informing the village authority or the Veterinary department when pig dies so that experts can initiate action quickly and prevent further spread.

‘What we have noticed is that most of the farmers used to hide the details of the death or sick animals,’ said the doctor, while requesting the people to report sick animal cases and or any suspected death.

‘When an animal dies, bury it at the earliest possible and it must not be slaughtered. If animals are sick, they should not be slaughtered,’ he said, lamenting consumption and selling meat of sick animals by some, instead of culling and burying them.

This, he said, is one of the sources of spreading the deadly disease.

‘Once ASF case is confirmed and pigs are dead, new stock must not be brought for six months. Complete disinfection of the pig sty and the surrounding areas should be done. Restriction of the movement of animals/pigs, import and export of live animals or meat products must be banned,’ said the doctor.

By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Apr 20, 2024 11:36:18 pm
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