Hog experts raised concerns yesterday about the continued spread of a deadly porcine disease that has spread to at least seven provinces, and killed thousands of pigs by one estimate.
Trai Bunlai, the veterinary specialist for the Cambodia Pig Raisers Association, said the unidentified disease has already struck pigs in Battambang, Kandal, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, and Kompong Chhnang provinces, although he said he could not determine exactly how many animals had been affected.
“If this disease continues to spread, more and more pigs will die,” he said, adding that he is concerned the disease will harm the pig industry.
“It is my concern that this disease will explode strongly,” he said. “It would reduce our pig production levels.”
Curtis Hundley, chief of party of the USAID-funded MSME Project, said the epidemic began about four months ago, though it has intensified in the past few weeks. He estimated the disease has already killed thousands of hogs.
“It’s a serious epidemic,” he said, adding that his information is based on field reports from farmers, many of whom have seen their entire stocks die in just one day.
“It’s all over. The epidemic started in Svay Rieng, all the border areas, especially where smuggled Vietnamese hogs come through,” he said.
He said the sickness appears to be consistent with blue ear disease, or porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, which recently struck the pig industry in Vietnam. Mr Hundley said blue ear disease epidemics can destroy entire pig industries.
Vietnamese state-owned media reported that as of Thursday, a blue ear epidemic has infected more than 12,000 pigs in Vietnam and that 4,000 pigs have been destroyed with another 8,000 under treatment.
Mong Reththy, president of the Mong Reththy Group, which owns two large pig farms, said the government needs to ban pig imports to slow down the infection rate. The government put a moratorium on pig imports in 2007 following concerns about the spread of disease from Vietnam and Thailand.
Mr Reththy said he has restricted access to his farms as a precaution against the recent outbreak. So far, none of his pigs have gotten sick.
“My two pig farms could lose millions of dollars if I don’t take care of them,” he said. “A tragedy would break out if the pig imports still happen.”
Seng Sovann, secretary-general for the Agriculture Ministry, referred questions to the director of the ministry’s animal health production department, Kao Phal. Mr Phal declined to comment.
In Kampot province, the disease has killed 146 pigs as of yesterday, with 256 animals now sick, said Nget Sophal, chief of Kompong Trach district’s agriculture office.
“We are tracking the situation,” he said. “It could spread to other districts.”
In Kompong Chhnang’s Kompong Leng district, 15 pigs have also died of an undetermined disease, said Sok Rin, deputy chief of the district agriculture office.
“We don’t know clearly about where this disease comes from,” he said. “I cannot make any conclusions, because it is the [investigating] period.”
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)