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African swine fever scare in Indonesia's Christian province

More than 100 pigs were reported dead across the region as of Jan. 19 confirming the highly contagious viral disease
A pigsty in Umung Village of Manggarai district, East Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia, where the return of the African swine fever virus is causing panic

A pigsty in Umung Village of Manggarai district, East Nusa Tenggara Province of Indonesia, where the return of the African swine fever virus is causing panic. (Photo supplied)

Published: January 19, 2023 11:55 AM GMT
Updated: January 20, 2023 12:36 PM GMT

Indonesian authorities have warned citizens in Christian-majority East Nusa Tenggara province against the likely outbreak of the deadly African swine fever in a number of districts.

Melky Angsar, head of the Animal Health Division in the province, said testing of samples taken in the last few days from dead pigs in the districts of Kupang and East Flores confirmed the highly contagious viral disease of pigs.

As of Jan. 19, more than 100 pigs were reported dead across the region.

In the Kupang district, where the virus was first detected, the government recorded the sudden deaths of 48 pigs due to high fever accompanied by other symptoms of the viral disease.

The province has a population of 5.5 million people with a majority of them rearing pigs, both as a source of additional income and for traditional ceremonies.

The region houses some 33 percent of Indonesia's pigs. According to the 2021 data from the agriculture ministry, the pig population in East Nusa Tenggara stood at some 2.5 million while it was 7.6 million across Indonesia.

“In the last two days, we have distributed disinfectants to farmers in the Kupang district for spraying inside the pig pens,” he told the state’s Antara news agency.

The spread of the disease could kill pigs on an entire farm, pushing farmers to poverty. The viral infection, however, does spread among humans, reports said.   

Maximus Jujur Nohos, head of animal husbandry services in the East Manggarai district on Flores Island urged farmers to increase vigilance to prevent the entry and spread of the virus.

“Do not buy pork and processed pork products from areas where the health status of livestock and their processed products is unknown,” he stated in a circular.

The residents were also told to "report to the local government if they found pigs that are sick or die suddenly.”

Similar announcements were made in districts across the province.

Yohanes Jehadun, 31, a villager in Umung, Manggarai district said the people were scared.

He himself had raised five pigs while his uncle had a herd of 34. "This information is worrying us," he told UCA News.

Meanwhile, Franciscan Father Philipus Adisulistyo, chaplain at the Mary Queen of the Angels Parish in Kuruboko, Ngada district in central Flores said he too is worried about the fate of the 12 pigs they kept at the parish.

He recalled during the last outbreak of African swine fever in 2020, they had suffered a huge loss as 28 of their pigs had died.

"I hope that the government takes concrete steps to handle this outbreak," he said.

Yohanes Simarmata, a veterinarian at the state's Nusa Cendana University in Kupang, said this is the third wave in the province after 2020 and 2021, which killed 122,000 pigs, according to government data.

He said the trigger was the procurement of pigs from outside the province without due regard to the health condition of the pigs purchased and the state of hygiene during transportation.

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