Pig deaths in Pitas, Sabah linked to African Swine Fever

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Veterinary Services Department has linked the recent deaths of scores of pigs in Pitas district in the state to a possible outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF).

“Initial tests showed that eight of the 13 samples collected from the pigs in Pitas were positive for ASF. Currently, the Veterinary Services Department (DVS) in Putrajaya is conducting confirmatory tests for the disease via DNA sequencing and we should be able to get the results in a day or two,” said Deputy Chief Minister cum Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.

Kitingan said department director Dr Peter Lee had informed him that Sabah DVS personnel were already on the field following a report about a possible outbreak of ASF two weeks ago.

The viral disease has torn through Asia since it emerged in China in 2018, with at least 100 million pigs already been cut down by ASF or culled to contain the disease.

ASF is fatal to pigs but harmless to humans.

Kitingan reiterated that traces of the disease were only found among domestic pigs in Pitas and not wild boars found dead in a few districts since December.

“We are fortunate that Pitas is not a pig-producing district. It is home to only a few hundreds of pigs in villages and the wild boar roaming in estates and jungle.

“The nearest town with a pig population is Kota Marudu, which is 140km away.

“Sabah’s main pig-producing areas are Tamparuli, Tuaran and Papar on the west coast and Sandakan and Tawau on the east coast.

“All the pork sold in the market is passed for human consumption, slaughtered in licenced slaughterhouses approved by DVS and inspected before going into the market.

“The department also carries out tests from time to time for quality monitoring and disease surveillance,” he said.

In the meantime, Kitingan advised pig industry players to step up their farm biosecurity.

This includes prohibiting outsiders from entering their farm premises, disinfecting vehicles coming in and changing attire when going into the farms.