The ongoing nationwide lockdown in India currently in effect until May 17, to halt the spread of COVID-19, is the prime reason for a lot of chaos and uncertainty in recent times. Added to this, the latest reports have confirmed the first instance of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the country, affecting 2800 pigs in the north-eastern state of Assam, triggering a wave of panic amongst the general public. The main factor being that ASF is also a lethal infectious disease caused by a virus that originates in an animal species. Also Read: WHO Declares The Novel Coronavirus A Pandemic - Don’t Panic, Be Precautious
However, the similarities between Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and African Swine Fever (ASF) end there. It has been established that the novel strain of coronavirus termed SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19, is zoonotic in nature, meaning it is transmitted from infected animals harbouring the viral vector to people, by means of direct contact. However, there is as yet no scientific evidence to prove that ASF affects the human population. Also Read: Coronavirus: Popular Myths Debunked & Facts You Should Know
This Invariably Prompts One To Ask The Question:
What Exactly Is African Swine Fever (ASF)?
African Swine Fever is a highly contagious illness that almost always leads to death, in pigs that have been domesticated by livestock breeders, for meat and other animal husbandry activities.
What Causes African Swine Fever?
ASF is caused by a big-sized, double-stranded DNA virus belonging to the Asfarviridae family, known as African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV). It usually infects its host organisms – warthogs, bush pigs, wild pigs, soft ticks. Although the ASFV viral strain has been documented to exhibit zoonotic potential, no infections of ASF have been reported in people as of now. Hence, it is safe to say that African Swine Fever does not affect humans in any way.
Where Did ASF First Occur?
The foremost accounts of African Swine Fever were in Kenya and Ethiopia. The onset of this ailment is most prominent in sub-Saharan regions of Africa, from where the disease derived its name. The ASFV virus transmits between its hosts – from ticks to wild pigs, bush pigs and warthogs, by means of an infectious viral life cycle, which mostly happens in the wild environments.
If Humans Don’t Acquire ASF, Then Why Is It A Concern?
Although there are no proven instances of ASF afflicting human beings, there still exists the undeniable fact that animal farmers depend on the healthy growth of livestock, for food as well as their source of income and livelihood. Moreover, people consume animal products and meat products. Therefore, it is mandatory to ensure that the meat for human consumption is free of any infectious microbes such as bacteria and viruses, to prevent an outbreak of infectious disease amongst people.
What Steps Are Being Taken To Manage The Sudden Spike In Cases Of African Swine Flu, Amongst Pig Population In India?
The most common way in which a widespread viral disease among domestic pigs can be dealt with is culling – which refers to the doing away with a specific subset of an animal population by selective slaughter. In addition, ample biosecurity measures are being employed to prevent further spread of infection among the domestic pig populace.