Following last week’s government ban on pig imports in response to an outbreak of blue ear disease, which by one estimate has killed thousands of hogs, the disease’s spread appeared to be slowing as precautions were put in place, experts and agriculture authorities said yesterday.
Blue ear disease, also known as porcine reproductive and respiratory disease, has struck pigs in almost half of Cambodia’s 24 provinces, and although the number of pigs who have died is still unclear, it has already had serious effects on the industry, according to Trai Bunlai, a veterinary expert with the Cambodian Pig Raisers’ Association.
“It is not harmful to people but it has damaged the local pig population,” he said. “Officials from the provincial animal health department and non-governmental organizations are making an all-out effort to prevent the disease.”
The outbreak began along the Vietnamese border in July and has now spread to western provinces, including Battambang and Siem Reap, he said.
Curtis Hundley, chief of party of the USAID-funded MSME Project, said increased bio-security education and the import ban have all mitigated the spread of the disease, which he estimated has killed thousands of pigs.
“I can tell you it is still spreading,” he said. “It’s not going to spread to a lot more places than it already has. There are a lot of places where it hasn’t hit.”
More farmers are now avoiding allowing people, such as traders and suppliers, to get near their farms, and reducing the transport of pigs–all precautions that should help halt the spread of the disease, he said. He said it would take months for the virus to die out in the country.
Kim Vannak, an official at the Siem Reap provincial Cabinet, said tests had not confirmed the existence of blue ear in the province but an unidentified disease had killed pigs in nine districts.
“From the 4th to the 12th of August, 101 died,” he said. “We have sent 11 samples to check for the disease in Phnom Penh.”
He said provincial authorities have been working with pig farmers to stop the spread of disease.
“We don’t allow the people to transport pigs arbitrarily and advise people to keeps pigs properly,” he said.
Huy Touch, chief of Banteay Meanchey’s provincial animal health department, said prevention efforts, such as vaccination and cleaning farms with disinfectant, were making an impact in his area.
“I try to advise the people to have good hygiene on their pigs farms,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)