Following the outbreak of Swine Flu (H1N1) across the country, at least 54 people have died from swine flu in Myanmar. According to Phyu Phyu Aye, an information officer at the Health and Sports Ministry, six more people have died in the country’s largest city, Yangon, taking the death toll to 54. Yangon is considered as the worst affected area, with a total of 43 casualties toward the end of 2019.
The outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) disease is happening in six regions across Myanmar. The ministry recorded that 274 out of a total of 671 patients tested positive for the virus in six regions, including Yangon, Magway, Sagaing, Bago, Mon and Ayeyarwady. ASF is among the strains of flu that have been circulating in the country seasonally since a global pandemic in 2009.
It has been speculated that the cause of the outbreak was the introduction of live pigs, the use of food waste for feeding and illegal smuggling of pigs, especially from China with southwestern Yunnan province has been affected. In terms of proximity to mainland China and direct flights with China, Myanmar has been identified as a high-risk area since February 2019.
More than 4,000 pigs in No 4 Mongla Special Region in Eastern Shan State were culled. The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department released an announcement which stated that 12 pigs were dead because of suspected disease, which turned out to be AFS, spread in Wannme village, Ponsan village tract, No 4 Mongla Special Region in Kengtung District, Shan State.
After confirming the outbreak of AFS viral disease, the pigs from the confirmed pig farm have to be culled and pesticides have to be sprayed. Furthermore, pork and pork products have to be banned to imported from the virus-affected countries. Neighbouring countries such as China and Thailand still ban import pork and pork products from Myanmar. Taiwan also increases the fines for illegally importing pork and pork products from Myanmar to NT$200,000.
A warning to the public has also been issued by the ministry, urging resident to follow contagious disease control procedures and to immediately inform authorities of any unexpected deaths of wild or domestic pigs. The ministry had also informed the World Organization for Animal Health about the case in Mong La and is cooperating with local administrative bodies.
In collaboration with The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Myanmar Pig Partnership, a multidisciplinary research project, is also working to incorporate effective biosecurity messages into farmer training initiatives in the Yangon region. In addition, social scientists have worked alongside microbiologists and veterinarians to see how people’s behavior can affect pathogen spread.
FAO describes ASF as one of the most severe viral diseases affecting swine production systems. However, the virus doesn’t affect humans and other animal species except for pigs and wild boars. According to FAO, no treatment or vaccine has been found to cure the virus.
The ASF has hit and is likely to spread in many other Asian countries, such as China, Mongolia, Cambodia, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos and Malaysia. The outbreaks are also happening in Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, Belgium, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia, according to the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS).