NOTIFICATION: BHUTAN’S EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE ACTION TO AFRICAN SWINE FEVER

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May 05, 2020: African Swine Fever (ASF) is a severe viral disease of pigs affecting both domestic and wild pigs. The disease does not directly affect public health or food safety, it does not transmit from animals to humans, but it is a terminal and highly infectious viral disease that has a serious impact on pig population. There is no vaccine nor cure for ASF. It can spread by live or dead pigs and pork. Transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and objects such as shoes, clothes, vehicles, knives and other equipment.

African Swine Fever has been spreading globally for several years and since the first reports of the virus into China in August 2018. On 2nd May, 2020, India reported high pig mortality in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh which was confirmed as ASF by the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) in Bhopal. The Indian Authority has indicated the source of this deadly disease from China. Considering the imminent threat of introduction of this deadly disease into Bhutan, Department of Livestock (DOL) and Bhutan Agriculture & Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) conducted a joint sitting on 4th May 2020 to decide on emergency measures to prevent incursion of this disease into Bhutan.

In order to enable field officials to swiftly act on to prevent incursion of ASF, the DOL and BAFRA are jointly working on:

  1. Risk assessment – to assess the risk of ASF incursion through legal and illegal imports, import of animal feed, equipment and other materials including possibilities of wild pig movement and spreading the ASF across the border. Similarly, existing pig population both commercial and scavenging pigs in the risk areas are being mapped. The information generated from the risk assessment will be used for updating the ASF emergency preparedness plan
  2. Awareness – The Department is facilitated access to factsheets, ASF materials and information links to the farm and filed staff working under DOL and BAFRA. Department of Livestock is developing and disseminating appropriate awareness and educational materials for livestock, BAFRA officials, pig farmers and field communities. BAFRA is taking lead in sensitizing the meat vendors and traders on importance of ASF prevention and control.
  3. Prevention – In order to regulate and prohibit import of risk materials, BAFRA is alerting its officials at all the port of entries. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture & Forests shall notify all stakeholders based on the risk assessment. The DOL on the other hand is trying to minimize the risk of exposure to ASF through immediate monitoring and implementation of farm biosecurity. Officials working in the piggery farms are alerted on biosecurity measures and prohibited taking high risk materials (pork, etc.,) inside the farm premises.
  4. Laboratory arrangement – in order to quickly detect any incursion of ASF into the country, the National Centre for Animal Health under DOL is equipped to test samples by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Rapid detection test kits for use in the field are being procured.

Meanwhile the draft Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan for ASF is being closely reviewed and improved by DoL and BAFRA. The plan will be finalized and tested through desktop and field simulation exercise. 

While the Department of Livestock and BAFRA are putting in place all measures to prevent incursion of this disease into the country, the Department would like to notify general public and seek support for prevention of this disease. Please do not bring meat of any kind including fresh, dried, frozen, cooked, smoked, salted or preserved, from all animal species, into Bhutan. Any passengers or travelers carrying these goods are requested to declare these goods at the port of entry. The pig farmers are advised not to feed any pork or pork products to pigs, as this is greatest risk for ASF spread. Besides those individuals who raise pigs or recuse pigs for Tshethar purpose are advised to confine the pigs as mixing of domestic pigs with the wild pigs as such practices are the biggest thread of introduction of ASF. The Ministry appreciate cooperation of the general public.

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