JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Thousands of pigs believed to have died from cholera have littered rivers and streets across North Sumatra in the past few days after they were allegedly discarded by their owners, raising fears of contamination and further spread of the virus.
In the provincial capital Medan, hundreds of pig carcasses were found along the Bederah River in Terjun subdistrict, Medan Marelan district, and near residential areas, causing residents to complain about the stench.
One of the residents, Jumadi, said it had been three days since residents saw pig carcasses floating on the Bederah River and on the riverbank.
"There are hundreds of pig carcasses floating along the river, contaminating the water. No one can (get rid of) them because of the stench," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday (Nov 6).
Jumadi, who lives 30m from the Bederah riverbank, said he did not know where the pigs had come from.
Dead pigs have also contaminated a river in Karing village in Berampu district, Dairi regency, which was commonly used by residents to do their laundry, bathe and even as a source of drinking water. The carcasses were believed to have been discarded in the river a few days ago, though the person or persons responsible remain unknown.
Meanwhile, in Balige, Toba Samosir regency, pig carcasses were found on Jl Raya Simanjalo on Monday. Residents and regency officials have cleaned up the street and buried the carcasses nearby.
The head of animal husbandry at the Toba Samosir Agriculture and Fisheries Agency, Robert Aruan, urged pig farmers not to discard their pig carcasses carelessly, as it could spread the virus to other cattle and affect the health of residents.
"We are currently facing a season in which pigs commonly fall ill," Mr Aruan said.
North Sumatra Food Security and Animal Husbandry Agency head M. Azhar Harahap said that the cholera virus had caused the deaths of many pigs in various North Sumatra regions in the past few months.
The virus, he said, had spread to 11 cities and regencies, including Dairi, Humbang Hasundutan, Toba Samosir, North Tapanuli, Karo, Deli Serdang, Medan and Serdang Bedagai.
He said that 4,047 pigs had died between September and early November. The figure, he said, was relatively small compared to the pig population in North Sumatra, which reached 1.27 million.
He warned, however, that the fatality figure could rise, as the virus may spread by farmers carelessly discarding pig carcasses.
"The virus can spread through the air. If the carcasses are not buried, then the virus can spread widely," Mr Azhar said on Tuesday.
He said the agency was focusing on vaccinating healthy pigs to prevent more deaths from the virus.
"So far, we have vaccinated around 10,000 pigs," he said, adding that more pigs would be vaccinated.