Suspect Pigs Tested as Pig Prices Plummet

INDIA - Samples from two sick pigs in the state of Maharashtra have been sent for testing although officials are playingdown the likelihood of an H1N1 flu infection. Meanwhile, live pigs prices are falling sharply on fears of a flu pandemic linked to pigs.
calendar icon 6 May 2009
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The live fattened pig, which traditionally commands a very high price during the summer season, has seen its worth plummet this time around, pork vendors around Panaji in the state of Goa have told Times of India.

"Summertime, is when live pigs are sold like hot cakes. It's holiday time, and there are crowds from Mumbai eager to pick up Goan sausages in bulk too. Not so, this year," a pork vendor in Mapusa said. Caution amidst the swine flu scare has been the cause of falling sales, say pork vendors.

"The price of a live fattened pig – a local one – would be around 3,000 rupees (INR). Yorkshire pigs fetch even up to INR 12,000," a butcher said, adding, "This year, the demand has decreased and pig rearers are anxious to dispose off their stocks. Prices have come crashing down," he said.

Although, there have been claims of pig deaths in Siolim and other places, officials from the department of animal husbandry and veterinary services have strongly denied this.

"Such reports have appeared in a section of the press, but all we can say is that such claims have been manufactured out of thin air. There are absolutely no cases of pig deaths in Goa, and we have verified it. The pig deaths along with other livestock in Maharashtra could be cases of the heat wave sweeping across the western region," a senior animal husbandry official said.

Incidentally, meat vendors in Panaji have hiked the price of chicken from INR 82 to 89. Pork vendors have, however, maintained the price of pork and sausages.

The World Health Organisation categorically states on its webs ite that there is no confirmation of transmission of the flu between pigs and humans yet.

Samples of sick pigs sent for testing

Times of India also reports from Pune in the state of Maharashtra that the disease investigation section of the state animal husbandry department has sent two sets of tissue and serum samples to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Izatnagar in Uttar Pradesh, and the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL) in Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh for testing on 5 May.

The samples were collected from suspected ailing pigs from Jalana and Jalgaon districts. The reports were expected within four days.

"We have sent two sets of samples containing tissues of the pigs that died of suspected ailment as well as blood (serum) samples of the ailing pigs from Jalana and Jalgaon to IVRI and HSADL. The samples to IVRI were sent by air while the samples to Bhopal were sent by bus," additional commissioner of state animal husbandry department, Vasant Ramteke, told Times of India. On 29 April, two serum samples of suspected ailing pigs from Jalgaon were sent to IVRI, he added.

In the last few days, the department has initiated a massive surveillance of the areas in the state, which have a sizeable population of pigs. "Around 3,000 veterinary doctors are conducting check-ups on pigs in the entire state. They have also taken blood samples of suspected ailing pigs, which are later sent to the disease investigation department based in Pune, which in turn, sends these samples to IVRI and HSADL," said Mr Ramteke.

Refuting any possibility of finding the H1N1 virus, Mr Ramteke said, "The Union government has directed us to keep the pigs in the state under observation. This is a precautionary measure. This alertness on the part of the department shows concern and vigilance level on the part of the government machinery."

The latest census in 2007 recorded that the state has total 3,38,333 pigs, he added.

"Swine farming is purely an unorganised and scattered business in the state. It is not at all regularised. Hence, piggeries are not on the surveillance system of the department," D.N. Zagade, commissioner, state animal husbandry department told Times of India.

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