Blue ear spreads as farmers, officials drop their guard

TN News

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The central province of Nghe An has become the 12th locality in the country to suffer a recurrence this year of the blue ear disease that affects pigs.

Provincial animal health officials said Sunday that 33 pigs belonging to the Nghe An Breeding Center for Domesticated Animals were found infected with the disease and killed, the Vietnam News Agency reported.


The officials said three more quarantine stations have been set up to the existing one to check if sick pigs were being transported. More traffic police officers have been placed on duty at the stations, they added.


The new stations were set up at both ends of National Highway 1A and Ho Chi Minh Road, where the traffic is heavy.


Poor management and relaxed vigilance has been blamed for the spread of the disease.

Heavy losses

As of Sunday, the blue ear disease had struck 12 provinces and cities in the north and central regions this year: Hai Duong, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Hung Yen, Bac Ninh, Hai Phong, Hanoi, Nam Dinh, Ha Nam, Lang Son, Quang Nam and Nghe An.


Of 39,900 sick pigs, 16,200 have been destroyed, according to figures released by the Animal Health Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.


Dang Huy Manh is among the pig farmers who have suffered heavy losses because of the disease. The Hanoi farmer has had nearly four tons of his pigs destroyed.


Vu Ngoc Trung, another pig farmer in Hai Duong Province, which in April 3 saw the first recurrence of the disease, said nearly two tons of his pigs had been destroyed and the rest were falling sick as well.


"Maybe a big loss again this year," Trung said.


He said the blue ear outbreak took everything he had in 2007 and he has been struggling to build up the business again.


The disease returned just when he'd managed to raise nearly 100 pigs, he said.


Blue ear was reported to recur early last month, nine months after the department announced that it was under control, together with foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu.


Hoang Van Nam, head of the Animal Health Department, said the farmers had let their guard down a couple of years after the disease first struck.


At some provinces, the disease was only noticed  7-10 days after it started to spread, while some farmers tried to conceal their infection and only informed the ministry when they could no longer deal with the outbreak on their own, Nam said.


He said some provinces didn't inform pig farmers adequately about the support they would receive when their pigs got sick. That prompted many farmers try to sell their animals at cheap prices once they were sick, helping the disease spread more widely.


"The situation is now very serious. There's very high chance that the disease will spread further in the north, the central and southern provinces," Nam said.


He said farmers can keep sick pigs for treatment but have to keep them away from the healthy ones and destroy them if they show little recovery after 17 days.


But at places where the disease just occurred, any sick pigs, no matter how, should be destroyed at once, he said.


It's not always easy for the farmers to destroy their sick pigs at once as ordered by the ministry.


Nguyen Thi Loan in Hanoi recently called her commune animal health officials to destroy her pigs after some died. But the commune had to wait for an order from the district government.


If Loan destroyed and buried the pigs herself, she will not receive the support of VND25,000 for each kilogram of the animals.


The pigs ended up being destroyed three days after they were killed by the disease.

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