As Assam grapples with coronavirus, the state is now gearing up to tackle another problem - African Swine Fever. Around 2,800 pigs have died in Assam since February due to the virus making the state the epicentre of ASF in India. African swine fever or ASF is a fatal disease in domestic pigs with almost 100 per cent mortality rate.
For the first time such a case has been reported in domestic pigs in India; Assam claims the virus has come from China just like the novel coronavirus. ASF has killed around 60 per cent of China's domestic pigs between 2018 and 2020.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has asked the Veterinary and Forest Departments to work with National Pig Research Centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to draw a broad roadmap to save the state's pig population from African Swine Fever.
State Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora, in an exclusive interview, tells NDTV that the situation is "alarming". The state in its containment plan has decided it would not cull the infected pigs but has implemented "biosecurity measure" which is in line with the lockdown.
After the outbreak, an expert team was constituted taking animal scientists within its fold, as Chief Minister Sonowal reiterated on the need to contain and control the spurt of the virus to save the pig industry from this onslaught.
Mr Sonowal held a meeting with the doctors of ICAR and Regional Institute of Livestock Entrepreneurship Management (RILEM) and discussed in detail the magnitude of the fever and strategy of the state to mitigate the problem.
During the meeting, Chief Minister Sonowal also asked the Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Department to do a 'threat-mapping' and undertake containment measures across the state. He also asked the department to find out the total number of entrepreneurs engaged in piggery sector and their financial liability so that government can take pragmatic steps to announce a bailout package to save them from penury.
The first case of the African Swine Fever was reported in 1921 in Kenya and Ethiopia though the problem is very rare in this part of the country.
The National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, has confirmed that it is African Swine Flu. As per a 2019 census by the department, the pig population of Assam was 21 lakh, but it has increased in recent times to around 30 lakh.