Government has gazetted six communal areas in Mount Darwin district of Mashonaland Central province in which movement of pigs has been banned as it battles to control an outbreak of African swine fever. The deadly livestock disease, which has no cure or vaccine, has killed more than 600 pigs in the district since last year, according to official statistics, and it is feared that it could affect large swathes of the region unless measures are immediately taken to combat its spread. The six communal areas covered by the quarantine order are Mukumbura, Chiganyo, Kamutsenzere, Chiswiti, Kaitano and Pachanza.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Paddy Zhanda, told the Financial Gazette Agricultural News that the quarantine order was meant to ensure that the disease does not spread. The livestock portfolio falls under Zhanda in the Ministry of Agriculture, while his co-deputy, Davis Marapira oversees the crop management portfolio. "The disease is under control and this ban will remain effective until we are satisfied that the swine fever has been eradicated," Zhanda said.
A 24-hour roadblock, manned by police and veterinary personnel has been mounted on the major road to the infected area to prevent the movement of pigs. Movement of pig products, especially pork, have also been banned. When the disease broke out last year, government carried out weekly inspections in the affected areas. Infected carcasses are being disposed of through burning and burying. Villagers are being educated on the bio-security measures that they should follow to keep the disease in check.
Quarantine is the only way of controlling the African swine fever since there is no cure or vaccine. The disease broke out in the district last year and has been confined to free roaming pigs in these communal areas. Usually the swine fever virus is transmitted to domestic pigs by soft ticks from wild pigs which are the reservoirs of infection and through contact with infected animals and other sources such as meat.
Swine fever, otherwise known as hog cholera or classical swine fever, is a specific viral disease that affects pigs. It affects no other animal species. It is regarded as one of the most economically damaging viral diseases of pigs in the world as it can wipe out entire pig populations if it is left unchecked. The last swine fever outbreak in Zimbabwe was reported in 1992.