By GYNNIE KERO
MORE than 300 pigs have died in Southern Highlands in recent months and National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (Naqia) is trying to establish the cause.
This was according to Agriculture and Livestock Minister John Simon on Saturday when confirming the presence of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Mendi.
Simon said the virus was suspected late last year when reports had surfaced of a high number of pig deaths, especially in Mendi.
Findings from Naqia revealed that deaths occurred in Nipa, Mendi-Munihu and central Mendi over a period of four months (November 2019 to Feb 25, 2020).
The pigs affected by ASF were understood to have collapsed and died with blood coming out of their mouths and noses.
Simon said the virus which mostly affects pigs was a threat to the country’s billion kina pork industry.
He added that though the virus was not a threat to public health and could not be transmitted through contact with pig or pork products.
“It can greatly affect people in the Highland where pigs are highly sourced for food and income,” he said.
“The Agriculture Department is very concerned that the virus could spread, hence I have approved that Naqia declare Southern Highlands, Hela and Enga as disease areas as of today (Saturday),” he said.
Simon said the declaration was a containment measure for a period of three months and could be extended.
He said the containment was to ensure the ASF did not spread from the affected areas.
Chief veterinary Dr Ilagi Puana said Naqia was still investigating how the fever had skipped the coastal areas and jumped into the heart of the Highlands. He said a possible cause was that the disease was transported through carriers including imported canned food.
Naqia said it needed about K18 million to conduct the first stages of a national containment strategy.
By GYNNIE KERO