November 11, 2010
FMD in Malaysian pig farms under control
The recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in several pig farms in Penang, Malaysia, is under control, said Dr. Wan Mohd Kamil, state Veterinary Services Department director.
The department has so far carried out quarantine on 18 farms in Kampung Selamat, Tasek Gelugor, since the first cases were discovered on October 14.
Kampung Selamat, which has 86 pig farms over a four kilometre radius, has some 203,000 pigs. The current outbreak affects some 400 pigs.
"At present, the situation is under control. The animals are being treated and are recovering. We would be conducting an exercise today to vet through all the the farms in the area to see if there are any new cases," said Wan Mohd Kami.
He said that if a single farm was found to have pigs infected with FMD, the department would have to quarantine the animals for another 21 days.
"We hope to lift the ban on the movement of the animals as soon as possible for the sake of the farmers and consumers," he said.
Meanwhile, pig farms in other parts of Penang unaffected by the FMD outbreak can still continue to send their stock to other states.
FMD is a highly infectious disease affecting cloven hoof animals, including cattle, sheep, and pigs. It is rarely passed on to humans. Though not a fatal disease, it can potentially cripple the farm industry.
The last time FMD hit the pig farming industry in Malaysia was in 2005, where several farms in Penang were also put under quarantine.
"The last time we had the outbreak it was much more serious. The pigs could not eat and walk but this time since the farms had started using 'useful microbes', a type of biotechnology to clean the farms, the infected pigs seem healthier and stronger while recovering from the disease," Kamil said.
He added that Veterinary Services Department officers are observing the situation and assisting in the treatment.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that pork prices in Penang have not risen. However, the Perak Pork Sellers Association has come under fire for using the Penang situation as an excuse to raise prices. Some quarters condemned the price hike, saying that Perak produces more pork than it consumes.
The Federation of Livestock Farmers' Associations of Malaysia chief operations officer, Dr. Khaw Eng Sun, said feedback from farmers showed that the outbreak is residing. He praised the government's quick action to contain the disease.
"We definitely see a need for a long-term vaccination programme for the sake of industry," he said.
Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, Chua Tee Yong, urged livestock farmers to work closely with the government to contain the FMD threat.
"They play an important role in ensuring that the disease does not spread. Even though FMD does not cause fatality in humans, it will affect the income of the farmers," he said.
However, Chua said a vaccination programme is not the best solution as there were other factors to consider, including the diminishing effectiveness of the vaccine.
"Normally if there are no cases in six months, we consider the farm clean. The veterinarians in each of the farms must remain vigilant and report a case as soon as it is detected," Chua said.
"The outbreak in Penang should be over soon. Measures have been taken and we are on standby to monitor the situation," he said.
FMD outbreaks for pigs are more worrying compared to cattle because the virus generally spreads faster in the former.
Besides Kampung Selamat, most of the other pig farms in Penang are located at Valdor Village near Nibong Tebal and Balik Pulau. Other states producing the meat are Perak, Selangor, Johor, and Malacca.