Mystery pig disease hits cows, dogs

An illness that has ravaged hundreds of pigs across Burma appears to have spread to cattle and other domesticated animals, including cats and dogs.

A pig breeder in Pegu division’s Nattalin township said that his stock had stopped eating around 10 days ago, and died shortly after. “We tried giving the pigs some medication when they stopped eating, assuming it was only normal illness. Some of them looked healthy but then we found out they were dead the next morning.”

He said that although the cause of death has not been identified, it was likely the outbreak of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV), or ‘blue-ear disease’, that has rocked Burma’s livestock industry over the past four months.

“People fear that it might turn into an epidemic as some of the pig owners, unable to manage with the large number of animal carcasses, are dumping them in drains on the side of the road,” another man said

According to the India-based Mizzima website, however, government officials were this week questioning whether PRRSV was behind a recent spate of pig deaths in Rangoon. It quoted Dr. Soe Win, head of the Rangoon Region Animal Husbandry and Veterinarian Department, who claimed a bacterial infection was the cause, rebutting assumptions that the pigs had died from blue-ear disease.

A resident of the Pegu division township of Paungde told DVB that cats, dogs and cows were also succumbing to illness in alarming numbers, and carcasses were being spotted on the sides of streets.

Despite warnings about the illness, he claimed that farmers were slaughtering pigs at the first sign that something was wrong, and then selling their meat in local markets, sparking concern among meat eaters.

This was despite a warning by the government’s Health Administration Department that infected pigs should not be sold on the market.

Both the Livestock Breeding and Veterinarian Department and UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rangoon were unavailable for comment.

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