African swine fever has been detected for the first time in Cambodia with an outbreak in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district. Some 400 pigs have been killed, said a Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries statement.
The General Directorate of Animal Health and Production director-general Tan Phannara told The Post on Thursday that the outbreak of African swine fever in Ratanakkiri is not a result of pigs being legally imported from Vietnam, as the province is not authorised to import pigs from neighbouring countries.
However, his initial conclusion is that it is likely that Vietnamese people who transport vegetables and meat over the border may have transmitted the disease to Cambodian pigs.
“What is being investigated for now is Vietnamese people who transport meat on motorbikes to sell in Ratanakkiri. This is my task to research, and our team is looking into it,” he said.
The infected pigs, which had been raised by a family operation in Som Thom commune’s Lom Kaninh village, began dying on March 22, Phannara said, but no one immediately attributed it to African swine fever.
“The outbreak took hold on March 22 but it took some time for it to be reported and samples to be analysed because the animal health inspector in the village thought it might have been due to the drought."
“The dry season often leads to the death of livestock, so he thought that was the problem. It wasn’t until March 28 that samples were sent to me for analysis,” he said.
Vietnam announced the outbreak of African swine fever on February 19. On March 15, Cambodian officials revealed that the disease had spread to the Vietnamese border next to Ratanakkiri and Kratie provinces.
At the same time, it was announced that the unofficial importing of pigs from Vietnam was strictly prohibited. However, soon after, there were a series of reports that a large number of pigs had been secretly imported from that country.
Phannara maintained, though, that according to furtive investigations conducted by him and his team along the border, no pigs were being illegally imported into Cambodia.
After the Ratanakkiri outbreak, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries announced a complete ban on the movement of any animals into or out of Lom Kaninh village in order to prevent the disease from spreading to other locations.
“We have blocked traffic for 3km either side of Lom Kaninh and are closely monitoring the area within a 10km radius of the village,” Phannara said.
Deputy provincial governor Nhem Sam Oeun said provincial authorities were not yet aware of the cause of the outbreak.
Immediately after the disease was identified, he said, the authorities advised people not to let any pigs out of their pens and to report to authorities any suspicion of another outbreak.
“We have also told people in other districts that if they suspect any pigs are infected, they must keep the animals in quarantine,” Sam Oeun said.
Ministry of Health spokesman Ly Sovann told The Post the ministry had not taken measures against the disease because it does not affect humans.