Context: Over 2,900 pigs have died in Assam due to African Swine Fever (ASF), which does not affect humans but can be catastrophic for pigs.


  • Amid the coronavirus pandemic, another disease outbreak is affecting thousands of animals in Assam. 
  • Since February, over 2,900 pigs have died in the state due to African Swine Fever (ASF).
  • This is the first time that an ASF outbreak has been reported in India.
  • In September 2019, the outbreak of the disease swept through pig populations in China — which is the largest exporter and consumer of pork — leading to large scale cullings.
  • As a result, the prices of pork shot up by over 50 per cent in the country over pre-outbreak levels.
  • The ASF causing virus is believed to have entered Europe for the first time in 1957 when it was introduced into Portugal from West Africa.

African Swine Fever: How did the current outbreak start?

  • As per the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the current outbreak of ASF has affected China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Indonesia among others. 
  • In China, the first ASF outbreak was confirmed in August 2018 and since then more than 1 million pigs have been culled in the country. 
  • In Vietnam, the ASF outbreak was confirmed in February 2019 and since then over 6 million pigs have been culled.
  • ASF came into India through Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh and then into Assam, the state with the highest population of pigs in the country. There is a province (in Tibet) which borders Arunachal Pradesh. It could have possibly travelled from there.
  • Virus can be carried by wild pigs too, so one cannot say for sure how and where exactly it entered Assam.
  • Ban on slaughter: Assam government decided to ban the slaughter and sale of pork awaiting test results of samples.
  • It was later confirmed that the samples were positive for ASF.

What is African Swine Fever (ASF)?

  • ASF is a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever. The disease has a case fatality rate (CFR) of about 100 percent. 
  • Its routes of transmission include direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead), indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage or through biological vectors such as ticks.
  • It is less infectious than other animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease. 
  • It does not affect human beings.
  • Symptoms include: high fever, depression, anorexia, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin, vomiting and diarrhoea among others.The disease is characterised by the sudden deaths of pigs.
  •  It is differentiated from Classical Swine Fever (CSF), whose signs may be similar to ASF, but is caused by a different virus for which a vaccine exists.

What is Classical Swine Fever (Hog cholera) ?

  • It is a viral disease related to pigs which is highly contagious and usually spreads by infectious meat or meat products consumption by Pigs or contact of healthy Pigs with infected pigs or their faeces or body fluids, etc.
  • It is not known to affect humans.
  • It is different from Swine Flu, which affects humans too.
  • It causes high mortality with annual loss of approx. Rs.4.299 billion. 

How is ASF different from swine flu?

  • Swine influenza or swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs, which is caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pig populations. 
  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while the swine flu causing virus leads to a high number of infections in pig herds, the disease is not as fatal and causes few deaths. Specific swine influenza vaccines are available for pigs.
  • The swine flu viruses are spread among pigs through close contact and through contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs.
  • Swine flu viruses don’t typically infect humans, cases have been reported in the past (for instance during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic), most commonly when humans have contact with infected pigs. When humans are infected with swine flu viruses, the symptoms are similar to human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing.

What is the impact ASF will have on pig farmers?

  • Double whammy: Because of COVID-19, there was no feed, no sales and now with the new disease, there is an air of uncertainty.
  • The outbreak also ruins the prospect of the Northeastern states as a hub for the export of pork products.

How is the Assam government planning to deal with the disease?

  • Culling is the only option: ASF has no vaccination, it is advisable that the infected pigs are culled.
  • The dead pigs undergo deep burials, with salt and bleaching powder. 
  • Declaring containment zone  and quarantine for pigs: The authorities have advised all pig farmers to contain the spread through biosecurity.
  • The area is cleaned with disinfectant and the pigs are not let out.