HCM CITY Stricter preventative measures are needed to combat the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Việt Nam's southern provinces, especially in the Mekong Delta, which is highly susceptible to the disease, experts said at a conference in HCM City on Saturday.
Since the first outbreak in Hưng Yên Province in the north in February, ASF has been detected in 2,904 communes in 42 provinces, with 1.7 million pigs culled – over 5 per cent of the country’s pigs.
After ASF was spotted in China in August, the Vietnamese Government began providing instructions on disease prevention, according to Bạch Đức Lữu, deputy head of the Animal Husbandry Department.
He said the disease had appeared in small towns in the country. About 80 previously affected communes in 22 provinces have now gone 30 days without another outbreak.
Large-scale pig farming areas owned by businesses are taking bio-security steps to protect their pigs, and around 740 farming facilities have been certified as safe from the disease.
South at high risk
Nguyễn Xuân Cường, the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that frequent transportation and traffic, the abundance of canals and high temperatures made the Southern region highly susceptible to ASF, as there are more avenues for the disease to spread and transport is more difficult to manage.
Lữu said ASF was first discovered in the south in the province of Hậu Giang in April. “The disease has occurred in eight southern provinces, and 4,840 pigs have been culled, which is 0.08 per cent of all pigs in the region,” Lữu said.
Southern Việt Nam has nearly 6.5 million pigs, or 23 per cent of the country’s total.
There are 3,514 pig farms, only 459 of which are considered safe from the disease. Many clustered individual households with pig farms are located near accommodations, making it more difficult to prevent the spread.
Many farmers in the south are still not fully aware of the dangers of ASF and have not applied bio-security measures.
Some farmers have tried to treat the disease themselves or have discarded pig carcasses in the river or garbage dumps, and have withheld information from local authorities or failed to co-operate.
Some officials, especially at the commune level, are not taking proactive measures to inspect areas and deal with outbreaks.
In addition, pig slaughtering has not been managed well. Several units are gathering and harvesting pork from pigs with unclear origins to sell to restaurants.
Disinfection has also not been done as frequently or thoroughly as instructed, and some areas lack the required chemicals.
Pig culling has not always been carried out safely as staff are not adequately trained and they lack proper equipment and chemicals. The burial sites are also problematic because much of the south is very low, allowing water so seep in and spread the disease.
Financial support for affected households is not enough, so some families try to hide the presence of the disease from local authorities to avoid having the rest of their pigs culled, according to the Bạc Liêu Province People’s Committee.
Lữu said different departments throughout the south need to strictly monitor ASF and pig transportation activities and disinfect more farms.
Authorities should also develop better pig culling teams, offer support to farmers whose pigs have to be culled and build more facilities that are protected from ASF, he said.
A representative of Đồng Nai Province People’s Committee said it had also been dealing with unmonitored pig harvesting, adding that one of the outbreaks in the province was caused by the activity.
Randolph Reinecker Zoerb, deputy general manager of swine operations at GreenFeed VN, said Việt Nam should identify countries at a high risk of ASF and tighten its customs procedures.
There is no cure or preventive medicine for ASF, and ensuring bio-security is the best way to prevent ASF or slow its spread, according to Nguyễn Xuân Cường.
Households and businesses also need to actively take part in tackling ASF.
Farmers with culled pigs should wait until they receive notice from authorities to begin farming pigs again. Affected farmers have been receiving help so they can farm other animals.
The disease has occurred in more than 60 countries since 1996.
Although not dangerous towards humans, ASF is highly infectious and resilient, and has a high mortality rate among pigs, causing great economic losses. VNS