‘Blue-Ear Disease’ Kills More Than 1,000 Pigs in Siem Reap

An outbreak of “blue-ear pig disease” has killed more than 1,000 pigs and caused nearly 3,000 to fall ill in two districts in Siem Reap province, officials said Sunday.

Moeung Sonithya, director of the provincial agriculture department, said the disease—officially called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome—flared up in mid-August. He said that as of Thursday, 583 pigs had died and 1,725 become sick in Chi Kreng district, while 418 had died and 936 fallen ill in Sotr Nikum district.

“We are taking measures in each area where the disease has been found,” he said. “First, we go down to the villages to cure the sick pigs. Second, we separate the sick pigs from the healthy ones. And third, we use anti-bacterial spray” in areas where the pigs live and on the vehicles used to transport them, Mr. Sonithya said.

Prum Vich, chief of the agriculture department’s animal health and production office, said the disease can only be transmitted between pigs and posed no threat to humans. He added, however, that an affected pig produces lower quality meat.

Mr. Vich said the first sign of the disease was a high fever of about 40 degrees Celsius. Red spots then appear on a hog’s skin and its ears and stomach turn purple, he said, resulting in respiratory problems in piglets and reproductive failure in sows.

Mr. Vich added that it was unnecessary to cull sick pigs because it was possible for them to recover, and that Siem Reap farmers were either burying the carcasses or selling them to crocodile farms.

He said the officials were still trying to determine how the outbreak occurred. “We are still studying it with technical support from officials in Phnom Penh,” he said.

Sen Kimseng, chief of Chi Kreng’s Sangvoeuy commune, said losses in both districts had so far cost farmers about $532,200, based on a selling price of roughly $200 for a healthy 100-kg pig.

Mr. Kimseng said pig farmers in his commune had lost about $240,000 on the 1,200 swine that had died or become sick since last month, and that their inability to sell sick pigs was causing them to become more indebted to the microfinance institutions from which they borrowed money to purchase the animals.

“People have stopped selling, buying and eating pigs—even at home and at markets—and pig raisers have already borrowed money from banks,” he said, adding that most families in his commune owned at least one pig and that some had as many as 30.

According to Mr. Vich, Cambodia’s last severe outbreak of blue-ear pig disease was in 2009, when more than 1,000 pigs died.

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