6 December 2017

Zambia: Swine Fever - Disaster 'Bacons' for Pig Industry

AFRICAN swine fever is a highly contagious disease to livestock and the fact that it has no vaccine makes it even more difficult to deal with in the event of an outbreak such as we have seen in the northern parts of Zambia in the last two weeks.

The spontaneous outbreak of the disease in some regions of the country poses a great danger to the pig population and a threat to the whole livestock population.

While the disease comes up from time to time with the last outbreak being in Eastern Province in 2015, the latest outbreak is much more threatening as it seems to be jumping district and provincial borders at a disconcerting pace.

In the last several weeks since the first outbreak was detected on October 26, 2017 at Mubende camp in Samfya district, the epidemic has claimed thousands of pigs and a lot more thousands have been de-populated in an effort to control the further spread of the disease.

Reported in Mbala last week for the first time on this outbreak, the disease has not spread northwards to Luwingu District where more than 950 pigs are said to have since died.

According to Luwingu District Commissioner Patrick Chanda, the district has more than 5,000 pigs and the spread of this disease if not tackled immediately, threatens to decimate the whole swine population in that area.

With there being no vaccine or cure for this disease, it is important to lay down more preventive measures aimed at containing its spread.

Efforts being made by the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries in collaboration with Veterinary Department and other stakeholders should be escalated to match the rate at which the disease is spreading.

Among such measures should include increased funding to enhance the fight against the disease in Luapula and Northern Provinces and other disease prone areas such as the Eastern Province where the outbreak had been recorded in the past.

While the release of K66, 735,000 to fight swine fever in Luapula is commendable, there is need to increase the budget just in case of another outbreak.

On the other hand, the Government and all the stakeholders should mount a vigorous campaign especially in rural areas where a large number of pig farmers are concentrated.

A task force needs to be put in place to spread awareness and sensitisation messages through radio, television, newspapers and other strategic communication platforms, including social media broadcasts.

Support should be given to local and international groups such as the University of Africa, Afrivet and Vet Network which recently launched an early warning system to detect the outbreak and impact of the livestock diseases.

Apart from banning the movement of pigs, Government should also endeavour to de-populate all the pigs in these swine fever prone areas so that they did not infect or affect other regions in the country.

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