Sabah sees pig and boar deaths amid worries over swine fever in one district

There is no confirmation so far that the deaths are linked to the African swine fever outbreak in the northern Pitas district. PHOTO: REUTERS

KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian authorities are getting more reports of wild boar and domestic pigs dying in the east coast areas of Sabah.

But there is no confirmation so far, by either the state Veterinary Services Department or Wildlife Department, that the deaths are linked to the African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in the northern Pitas district, where the culling of livestock is taking place.

As at Thursday (Feb 25), the staff of a lodge in the eastern Sukau area under Kinabatangan notified wildlife officials that three boars or bearded pigs had died on the grounds.

"One of our member lodges has shared pictures of wild boar carcasses found within its compound. The Wildlife Department has been alerted," Kinabatangan Corridor of Life Tourism Operators Association (KiTA) president Alexander Yee said on Friday (Feb 26).

"While waiting for test results, we ask that the Veterinary and Wildlife Departments alert the public to the possibility of an ASF outbreak.

"They should educate and advise the public on precautionary measures to take to prevent its spread," he added.

Mr Yee said KiTA and its members were prepared to help if they are needed.

Neither Veterinary Department director Peter Lee or Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga could be reached for comment on the latest animal deaths.

The state government has declared an ASF outbreak in Pitas, about 140km north of Sabah capital of Kota Kinabalu, with confirmed cases detected at farms.

Deaths of pigs and boars have also been reported in Pitas' neighbouring areas including Beluran and Kinabatangan.

On Feb 23, Deputy Chief Minister Jeffrey Kitingan, who is also state Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, said pigs in the Pitas district would be culled under a state enactment.

The regulation also provides for the controlled transport and movement of pigs as well as the sale of pork products to curb the spread of ASF.

More than 2,000 pigs could be culled in the operation.

He said the domestic market for Sabah pork products is worth RM300 million (S$98 million) a year, with no record of export to other states.

Mr Kitingan said the Veterinary Department would conduct an awareness campaign to increase the public's understanding of the disease as well.

The disease is harmless to humans but is highly infectious among swine.

He said the culling work would be conducted speedily because of the infection rate and the absence of a ready vaccine or cure.

The government's measures to control the spread of ASF are expected to take about six months.

Mr Kitingan said the priority was to stop the disease from spreading to commercial pig farms in Tuaran, Kota Kinabalu, Papar, Sandakan and Tawau.

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