Farmers in the Western Cape are facing an African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak for the first time after pigs on two local farms tested positive for the disease.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the Western Cape Department of Agriculture confirmed the outbreak of the African Swine Fever virus in a joint statement on Friday.

“Two small-holding farms in Mfuleni, North of Khayelitsha, were found positive for ASF, after laboratory testing of samples from dead pigs. Approximately 5% of pigs had died on each of the two properties and the disease has the potential to kill all pigs on a farm. A ban has been placed on the sale and movement of live pigs from Mfuleni to limit the spread of the disease, ” Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said.

ASF does not affect humans and the consumption of pork is safe. However, any meat and products from affected pigs can be a source of infection to other pigs.

Scientists investigating spread of ASF

The Western Cape Veterinary Services has launched survey to determine the extent of the spread of the disease in Mfuleni and the immediate surrounding area. This will include the collection of further samples from dead pigs from any farm suspected to contain the disease. 

“The origin of the outbreak is still unknown but the clues may be provided by the study of the specific virus detected and by information provided by affected farmers,” Ngcobo said.

“Farmers are requested to be vigilant and to report any sudden illnesses and deaths of their pigs to the local State Veterinary office immediately, so that swift action can be initiated to prevent the spread of this disease,” he said.

SA provinces that have not been affected by the disease since 2019 have included Mpumalanga, Gauteng, Free State, North West, Northern Cape and the Eastern Cape. 

Ngcobo said there had already been “numerous outbreaks” of the disease in  2021 in Gauteng where cases were reported in the Randfontein, Tembisa and Midvaal areas. 

“The latest outbreak in the Free State was reported in January 2021, where contact with warthog is suspected to have played a role. In North West, the latest ASF outbreak was reported in the Potchefstroom area in February 2021, after a smallholder experienced high pig mortalities,” he said.

He said investigations into the source and spread of the Potchefstroom area outbreak had been initiated. He added that a single outbreak had also  been reported in the Thabazimbi area of Limpopo in February 2021. 

The disease is transmitted to pigs by contact with infected wild or domestic pigs, and contact with contaminated people, vehicles, equipment or shoes, and eating contaminated food waste, feed, or garbage, or by being bitten by infected soft ticks. 

“The department therefore urges owners to improve their biosecurity measures and to be very vigilant on good husbandry practices,” Ngcobo said.

How to protect pigs against African Swine Fever

  • Enclose pigs to prevent contact with pigs of unknown health status, including wild pigs and warthogs.
  • Only buy healthy pigs from a reliable source.
  • Preferably, do not feed kitchen waste, but if you have no option, remove all meats and cook the kitchen waste thoroughly. 
  • Do not allow visitors to have contact with your pigs.
  • Before having contact with pigs, wash hands, only use clean clothes, shoes, equipment and vehicles (that have not been in contact with other pigs).
  • Ensure that, if any swill is fed to pigs, it must be pre-cooked for at least an hour. This will ensure the inactivation of the ASF virus, as well as other diseases.

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Presh JM Reporter

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