Updated: May 08, 2020 08:17 AM GMT
An Indian man cooks pork and displays crabs during a Mongolian food festival in Guwahati, Assam state's business capital, in this December 2017 file photo. (Photo: Biju Boro/ AFP)
An outbreak of African swine fever has killed thousands of pigs on the farms of Assam state, hitting the rural economy and taking pork off the menu in the Christian stronghold areas of northeastern India.
The Assam government banned the sale and distribution of pork in the state from the last week of April after pigs began to die. Within a fortnight, at least 3,000 pigs had died of fever in the state's six districts.
The fever caused by a virus affects mostly pigs and has a high mortality rate. No vaccine or cure has been developed for it.
Swine fever is different from swine flu, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. Swine flu can spread from animals to humans, but swine fever does not and therefore poses no threat to public health, it said.However, governments have advised precaution in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which was reportedly caused by a zoonotic coronavirus that infected humans after originating at an animal market in China.The Indian government's plan to cull pigs to check the spread of the disease threatens to impoverish hundreds of villagers who depend on pig farming for a living."The federal government has informed us that it is the first instance of the disease in the country," Atul Bora, Assam's animal husbandry and veterinary minister, told media on May 3.African swine fever, affecting both domestic and wild pigs, can spread via live or dead pigs and pork products, according to the World Organization for Animal Health.Its transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and objects such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives and other equipment. Bora said the mortality rate of the infection is "almost 100 percent. So we are discussing with experts on ways to save uninfected pigs without culling them."