JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Indonesia's North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi said the government had allocated 5 billion rupiah (S$485,200) to bury thousands of pigs that had died of African swine fever (ASF) and contain the spread of the virus.
At least 29,200 pigs have died due to the disease, causing losses to pig farmers in the province and driving people to stop eating pork.
Local authorities had initially identified the disease as classical swine fever, also known as hog cholera, another viral disease that bears similar symptoms and also causes massive deaths. Unlike hog cholera, however, there is no vaccine or cure for ASF.
The Agriculture Ministry confirmed the existence of the virus in 16 regencies in North Sumatra on Dec 12 and reported the case to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on Dec 17.
The government is to disburse the funds from the state budget.
Mr Edy said the generous amount of funding was needed since the number of dead pigs kept increasing.
"The funds will be used to prepare personnel to bury the dead pigs, form a patrol team and set up posts to close off the entrance and exit for the pigs," he said.
He added that he had yet to prepare the budget for pig extermination due to the huge amount of pigs in the area.
"There are at least 2 millions pigs in (the province). Imagine how much it costs if (the extermination for) each pig costs 3 million rupiah," he said.
The ministry's farms and animal health director general, Mr I Ketut Diarminta, said residents should report cases of dead pigs and not handle it by themselves.
"We call on people to report sick or dead pigs. Do not throw it in the neighbourhood or into rivers," said Mr Ketut as quoted by Antara news agency.
An African swine fever outbreak has swept across China, Vietnam, Cambodia and has alarmed countries amid the absence of a vaccine or cure for the disease.
The disease does not transmit to humans as the virus dies during the cooking process. But it could contaminate other pigs that are located near the infected pigs - alive or dead.
According to Xinhua, China has decided to cull all affected pigs in an affected area as an emergency response.
Mr Edy said the local administration's first attempt to overcome this issue was to establish emergency posts so that residents could report cases.
Farmers, who usually keep pigs in sties, have been told to keep them in cages and separate those suspected to have been infected with the virus.
Excavators have been prepared to bury the massive number of dead pigs.
Dozens of restaurants in Medan that sell Karo grilled pork have closed down their businesses within the past four months as a result of the issue.
The secretary of a local association of grilled pork restaurants, Mr Terbit Ginting, said pork restaurants in Medan had incurred financial losses ever since the massive death of pigs.
"Many grilled pork restaurants decided to close their business because they suffered financial losses," Mr Terbit said.
He said that before the outbreak, a restaurant could sell five roast pigs a day. Now, many restaurants find it difficult to sell even one.
Mr Terbit said this was because the public were afraid to consume pork even though the government had clarified that it would not endanger humans.
To increase the public's interest in eating pork, Mr Terbit said his association held a culinary tour for pork dishes in CBD Polonia, Medan.