The Eastern Cape, which has over 980 Covid-19 cases and more than 20 confirmed deaths, has had to deal with another invisible enemy with the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Amathole District Municipality.
The agriculture, land reform and rural development department has said that resources, including police, already in place to contain the spread of Covid-19 have had to be split to contain the ASF, a viral disease affecting wild and domestic pigs.
The department’s investigations and a post mortem performed by its veterinary services on 13 April confirmed ASF in Ngede, Nontshinga, Ngquthu and Toleni, with a total of 50 pigs having died. A notification has been sent to the World Health Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza has noted that this was the first time that an outbreak of AFS has been recorded in the Eastern Cape.
In the past three years, outbreaks of ASF outside of the ASF controlled area occurred in the Free State, North West, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The department was yet to determine whether this outbreak in the Eastern Cape was linked to the outbreaks in other provinces.
“This outbreak occurred in a communal setting, which makes movement control and biosecurity between the respective pig herds difficult.
“Control measures currently in place include that all infected pigs should be as far as possible from those that are not and must be housed alone to avoid contact with other pigs in the area to limit the spread of the disease,” Didiza said in a statement.
Follow-up investigations by provincial veterinary services are underway to determine the extent of the outbreak.
Departmental spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said the areas where the outbreak occurred has been quarantined, with no pigs allowed to move into, through or out of the area, and that culling was encouraged as there was no treatment or cure for the fever.
He said since the viral disease – resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever with a case fatality rate (CFR) of close to 100% – also affected wild pigs, it could be that someone killed a wild pig and brought the carcass to a village.
“The disease is transmitted to pigs by contact with infected wild or domestic pigs and infected soft ticks, contact with people, vehicles equipment or shoes, and eating contaminated food waste, feed or garbage,” Ngcobo said.
Awareness campaigns have been initiated to inform pig keepers in the affected area on how they could protect their pigs from the virus. The department has assured the public that ASF does not affect humans and the consumption of pork is safe.
Quick facts about ASF
- It kills almost all infected pigs.
- Other common clinical signs are bleeding on the skin and difficulty breathing.
- There is no vaccine.
- There is no treatment for affected pigs.
- Prevention is better than cure.
Recommendations for pig owners
- Enclose your pigs to prevent contact with pigs of unknown health status, including wild pigs and warthogs.
- Only buy healthy pigs from a reliable source.
- Preferably, do not feed kitchen waste, but if you have no option, remove all meats and cook the kitchen waste thoroughly.
- Do not to allow visitors to have contact with your pigs.
- Before having contact with pigs, wash hands, only use clean clothes, shoes, equipment and vehicles (that have not been in contact with other pigs).