Blue Ear Disease in Pigs: Possible Source of Infection Further Investigated | Western Cape Government


Blue Ear Disease in Pigs: Possible Source of Infection Further Investigated

27 June 2004

The acting Minister of Agriculture of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture Mr. Pierre Uys announced today that another farm in the Cape Flats was found positive for Blue Ear Disease on blood samples submitted to the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute. This finding follows the intensive investigation conducted by the Directorate of Veterinary Services of the Western Cape Department of Agriculture to try and determine the cause of the disease that was diagnosed for the first time in South Africa on a single farm on the Cape Flats last week.


Mr. Uys said that the survey to determine the extent of the disease in the Cape Flats will be expanded to include the collection of blood samples on all suspect farms within the affected area. It is however important to determine the origin of the causative virus before any definite conclusions can be made on the source of the infection. Samples will be submitted to an international reference laboratory in the Netherlands to aid in the investigation and to determine whether the virus responsible for the suspect outbreak of Blue Ear Disease in pigs is of American or European origin. The results from the Netherlands on the causative virus should be available by Thursday or Friday.

The Director of Veterinary Services of the Department of Agriculture Dr. Gideon Brückner said that several possibilities are investigated to determine the origin of the disease but tentative findings indicate that the disease is suspected to have been introduced by the feeding of swill to pigs on the affected farms in the Cape Flats. He said that the feeding of swill is common practice amongst pig farmers on small-holdings in the Cape Flats as it is readily available at low cost from several outlets such as restaurants and hotels. The free trade of pigs and human movement between farms within the Cape Flats was cited by Brückner as another possible cause contributing to the spread of the disease.

Mr. Uys announced that a temporary ban was placed on the sale and movements of live pigs within the Cape Metropole, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Malmesbury districts to limit the spread of the disease. Only movements directly from pig farms to registered abattoirs will be allowed. He also confirmed that there is no danger of the disease affecting humans but urged pig farmers to ensure to only purchase pigs from farms with a proven clean health history and to practice good hygiene management practices on their farms to minimize the risk of disease introduction or spread of the disease. The Minister expressed his gratitude towards the South African Pig Producers Organization for their assistance to the Department to help in minimizing the possible negative impacts on trade within the province as result of the disease and sensitizing pig farmers in other provinces to be on the look-out for suspect symptoms of the disease.

Enquiries: Dr Gary Buhrmann
Chief State Veterinarian
Cell: 083 6420602

Alie van Jaarsveld
Media Spokesperson
Ministry: Agriculture - Western Cape
Cell: 084 6046701