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Concerns over swine fever outbreak

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General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general Tan Phannara speaks at the first National Consultative Workshop on African Swine Fever Preparedness and Response Plan at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh on Monday. Heng Chivoan

Concerns over swine fever outbreak

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries specialists have raised concerns over African swine fever spreading from Ratanakkiri to its three border provinces – Mondulkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng.

Officials suspect that the disease may have spread to Som Trak, Som Kol and Ten villages in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district, following an outbreak of the fever in Som Thom commune’s Som Kaninh village on March 22.

The General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general Tan Phannara on Monday said suspicions arose as pig farming practices in the local family-owned operations entail allowing pigs out of their cages to forage for food and slaughtering those that died of diseases for food – unaware of the African swine fever outbreak.

The three villages have seen a series of pig deaths as in the first outbreak in Som Kaninh village. A total of 193 pigs have been bought from the people to prevent further contagion.

“What we have seen – the disease may have spread to the three villages. We are going to the villages and warning them to excise further caution due to the fever,” he said.

Phannara said this during the first National Consultative Workshop on African Swine Fever Preparedness and Response Plan, which was held by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at a hotel in Phnom Penh on Monday.

The workshop was attended by government officials, development partners and relevant parties in the pig-raising private sector.

He said the African swine fever outbreak did not result from the illegal import of Vietnamese pigs, due to the lack of a border gate in Ratanakkiri province which allows pig imports and exports.

Only three provinces – Svay Rieng, Takeo and Tbong Khmum – had pigs imported from Vietnam, but the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries previously closed off the three provinces from pig transport for nearly two months, following 29 cases of illegal pig imports from Vietnam.

According to Phannara, the reason the disease has spread to the Kingdom is that the Vietnamese had transported all kinds of meats and vegetables to sell to residents of Ratanakkiri province.

However, FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases in Cambodia team leader Kristina Osbjer said African swine fever could not be transmitted to humans, even through the consumption of diseased pork meat.

She said if the meat is undercooked and used as pig feed, then it will be transmitted to them.

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Fears over African Swine Fever grow.

“We know that the African swine fever virus is resistant to heat. If [villagers] cannot cook contaminated meat at a steady temperature of 70 Celsius for 30 minutes, the virus will remain in the meat and when the food is used to feed their pigs, the virus will spread,” she said through an interpreter.

African swine fever had also clung to household items such as socks and clothes that have touched infected pigs and spread to other pigs, she said.

Cambodia Livestock Raisers Association (CLRA) president Srun Pov said membership currently numbered more than 4,000 and consists of pig raisers ranging from families to large-scale operations.

He said the main concern was that pig-farming families do not clearly know how to prevent the spread of African swine fever.

“Small-scale farmers obtain rice from the market without considering the possible consequences. They are frequently invited to attend workshops. However, they do not tend to go very often. This worries the association."

“Attendance by large farm operators would help a lot as they could supply disinfecting agents to smaller farms,” he said.

Phannara said the ministry is purchasing pigs from outbreak areas to cull them and prevent the spread of the virus to other provinces.

FAO in Cambodia representative Alexandre Huynh said the organisation would provide technical support, financing and coordination to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in an effort to tackle the spread of the disease.

“We received a request from the Ministry of Agriculture, [Forestry and Fisheries] to help coordinate and provide support for responsive action to African swine fever."

“The directors of the General Directorate of Animal Health and Production and FAO are also collaborating to tackle the disease to the best of their abilities,” he said.

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