KOTA KINABALU: Pigs will continue to be culled until authorities deem the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) has stopped, says Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
He said culling was the only way to stop the spread of the virus and that is why authorities will continue to do so and keep reminding villagers about the need for the operation to continue.
"ASF is highly infectious," said the state Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, adding bearded pigs in eight districts in Sabah have been affected with at least 128 confirmed deaths recorded.
Jeffrey, who is also Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said the districts are Pitas, Kota Marudu, Beluran, Telupid, Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau.
As for backyard pigs, he said a total of 110 have been culled by the Veterinary Services Department (DVS) while 395 have died of ASF.
He said the government feared for the survival of this species because the population of the Bornean bearded pigs was already on the decline.
"I am concerned the ASF will further reduce their population at a much faster rate," Jeffrey said.
"Five districts namely Pitas, Beluran, Kota Marudu, Lahad Datu, Kinabatangan have been declared as ASF outbreak areas. The same will be declared in the remaining three districts this week," he said.
He said an urgent steering committee meeting with the relevant departments and agencies to coordinate efforts to control and eradicate ASF in Sabah was convened.
The first meeting, chaired by DVS director Dr Peter Lee on Tuesday (March 16) was attended by representatives from the State Attorney General's Office, Sabah Wildlife Department, Sabah Forestry Department, Drainage and Irrigation Department, Community Development Leader Unit, Information Department, Local Government and Housing Ministry and the police.
During the meeting, members were briefed on strategies that would be used to curb ASF from spreading to major pork production areas in Sabah.
"The committee discussed how to best solve the problem including suspending hunting licenses and raising awareness among the people in ASF-hit areas," Jeffrey said.
"They also touched on the best way to dispose of the pig carcasses," he said, adding the sale of wild boar was not allowed for now.
He said, no new ASF cases have been recorded among backyard pigs, while commercial pig farms in Tawau, Sandakan, Tenom, Papar, Tuaran and Penampang have remained ASF-free.
The DVS has carried out ASF awareness campaigns in 74 villages in Pitas, the district where it was first discovered, Jeffrey said.
The DVS epartment has also continued surveillance to detect the status of infection in ASF-free districts and collected 409 samples from abattoirs, commercial pork sales centres and sinalau bakas vendors throughout the state.
"We will ensure this disease does not reach commercial pig farms to ensure pork supply for local consumption remains unaffected," he said.
Jeffrey reminded the public that ASF only affects pigs and there was no need to be worried about the virus' effects on human health.