Context: Certain areas in four districts of Mizoram have been declared as epicentres of the African swine fever (ASF) that has so far killed 1,119 pigs in a month.
What is African Swine Fever (ASF)?
- ASF is a severe viral disease (DNA virus) that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever.
- ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. It is not a food safety issue.
- The disease has a case fatality rate in pigs is of about 100 percent.
- Its routes of transmission include:
- direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead),
- indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage; or
- through biological vectors such as ticks.
- The disease is characterised by the sudden deaths of pigs.
- Classical Swine Fever (CSF) has signs which may be similar to ASF, but is caused by a different virus for which a vaccine exists.
- As of now, there is no approved vaccine, which is also a reason why animals are culled to prevent the spread of infection.
- ASF is lethal and is less infectious than other animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.
- Any country with a pig sector is at risk of the spread of the disease and its spread is most likely via meat arriving aboard ships and planes, which is incorrectly disposed of and by meat carried by individual travellers.
How is ASF different from swine flu?
- Swine influenza or swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs, which is caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pig populations.
- While the swine flu causing virus leads to a high number of infections in pig herds, the disease is not as fatal and causes few deaths.
- Specific swine influenza vaccines are available for pigs.
- The swine flu viruses are spread among pigs through close contact and through contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs.
- Further, while swine flu viruses don’t typically infect humans, cases have been reported in the past (for instance during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic).