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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Health officials to meet on epidemic of blue-ear in pigs

Health officials to meet on epidemic of blue-ear in pigs

AGRICULTURE officials plan to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss an epidemic spreading through the Kingdom’s swine population that some officials have blamed on infected Vietnamese pigs they say have been dumped illegally on the Cambodian market.

Sourn San, director of the Animal Health Research Institute at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday that 80 blood tests conducted last week had revealed an unprecedented epidemic of pig diarrhoea and blue-ear.

“The disease is caused by an untreatable virus and expert officials can only cure some secondary diseases which those pigs have,” he said. The epidemic had coincided with similar outbreaks in China, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, he said.

Mey Yeoun, deputy director of the Svay Rieng provincial Department of Agriculture, said diseased Vietnamese pigs, smuggled into Cambodia at night, were causing the outbreaks.

“Vietnam has been rushing to export a lot of sick pigs to Cambodia for the unusually cheap price of only 3,000 riels [US$0.71] per kilogram of live pig, down from 8,000 riels per kilogram before,” he said. “They are trying to export their pigs to Cambodia before those pigs are killed by the Vietnamese government.”

He said the pig diarrhoea could spread to humans if meat was not cooked well.

Curtis Hundley, chief of party at USAID’s Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise agency, said pigs imported into Cambodia from Vietnam and Thailand were not subjected to the same standard as checks applied to Cambodian pigs exported in the other direction.

“It starts with the illegal import of piglets. It is procedures at the border. They don’t check the pigs,” he said.

In a letter last week, Kao Phal, director of the Department of Animal Health and Production, called for a temporary ban on pig imports and announced today’s emergency meeting with agricultural officials from every province. “The disease is infectious, and Cambodia may have caught up with it through the import of pigs from other countries,” the letter said.

Yeam Chansophorn, director of Battambang’s provincial Agriculture Department, warned that villagers rushing to offload their infected swine for low prices had created serious health hazards.

“According to the animal health law, sick and dead animals cannot be sold for consumption, but many villagers have eaten those sick and dead pigs.”

Significant outbreaks of pig diarrhoea and blue-ear, or Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, have so far been reported in Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Prey Veng, Kampong Cham, Svay Rieng, Takeo, Kandal and Kampot provinces.

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