Hog Apocalypse- African Swine Flu in Assam can be ravaging for KNP
NUMALIGARH: More than 2,500 sudden deaths in pigs were reported in several districts of Assam since the last few days. After testing and verifying all the samples, the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal has confirmed very recently that the cause of this Hog Apocalypse is none other than the African Swine Fever (ASF).
ASF is a severe viral disease of pigs that can spread very rapidly. ASF is a highly contagious disease of domestic pigs and wild boars. It is caused by a virus and it causes severe haemorrhage. It is different from the Classical Swine Fever which we have known for a long time.
Now, disposal of the carcasses of the dead pigs into the river and other open places may definitely prove catastrophic. Kaziranga National Park Director P. Shivakumar told The Sentinel that a lot of pig carcasses had been recovered in the Brahmaputra River inside the national park.
"Recently we detected a total of 21 carcasses of pig which were floating on the River Brahmaputra. All the carcasses were disposed off with help of the Veterinary Department of Biswanath. A meeting was also held with civil, police and NGOs in this regard, which was chaired by Chief Wildlife Warden at Kohora," said KNP Director P. Shivakumar.
After recovery of the pig carcasses, the forest department is on high alert. Patrolling has been intensified along the riverside and other areas. The forest department has also issued a departmental advisory lately to take all precautionary measures against any possible transmission of the disease to the protected areas.
"ASF has a very high fatality rate in pigs from 80 per cent to 90 per cent, but luckily it is not zoonotic, which means that it doesn't affect humans. This kind of contagious infectious disease in NE States is a major threat to swine population under domestication but we cannot ignore the fact that if disposal of carcass of infected swine is not done in scientific way then it may spread to the wild counterparts as this virus enters sylvatic cycle too," said zoonotic disease expert Dr Samsul Ali.
According to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), this disease can be transmitted through direct contact. So, if a healthy pig comes in contact with a sick pig, the disease can spread. This is direct transmission. Indirect transmission takes place when infected bedding material, feed and carcasses of diseased animals or garbage come in contact with healthy pigs. Ornithodoros ticks also act as biological vectors for the spread of the disease. There is no vaccine for ASF and it can spread through non-biological objects like shoes and clothing.
Corbett Foundation deputy director and veterinarian Dr Naveen Pandey said, "If the carcasses of diseased animals are disposed near wetlands or thrown in rivers, it poses a greater risk for the population down the stream. In a floodplain like Kaziranga, it is a very scary situation. The wild boars in Kaziranga and pigmy hogs in Manas National Park are vulnerable. Hundreds of wild boars have perished in Europe due to ASF. The Corbett Foundation is launching an awareness programme for the villages around Kaziranga National Park where individual contacts are being made with farmers, mainly through mobile phones to inform about the symptoms of the disease and disposal of the carcass if this disease is seen. After easing of the lockdown, there is a programme to reach to villages and explain how farmers can take precautions and how they should dispose off the carcasses in case of death."
Wildlife experts and other stakeholders are also asking for appropriate measures and action to be taken by the civil administration and Veterinary department to save the wildlife of KNP and other protected areas from the African swine fever.