A week after the agriculture ministry assigned thousands of veterinarians to tackle the spread of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), the Cambodian government says that PRRS is now under control in the country.

The Cambodian government called on 13,000 of the country’s veterinarians to help put a stop to the outbreaks of PRRS, which began in mid-August. According to Phnom Penh Post, the early outbreaks in three districts of Siem Reap province in the northwest of the country killed at least 1,200 pigs and affected a further 3,000. A senior official at the country’s agriculture department told the newspaper the last outbreak in the country was in 2009. He added that as there is no vaccine, control of the spread will be achieved through education of farmers and better biosecurity on pig farms.

In a more recent report in the same newspaper, the alert level was raised in other districts in the province and in neighboring Banteay Meanchey.

Last week, Chinese sources reported Agriculture Minister Ouk Rabon sent a directive forbidding the selling, buying or transporting pigs in or out of a 1-kilometer radius from the outbreak epicenters. He added that these areas will be protected and monitored for 30 days.

The PRRS virus does not affect humans but the outbreaks were reported to be hitting pork consumption, according to the Cambodian newspaper. Perhaps concerned by orders for farmers not to sell infected pig meat at markets, consumers opted for other meats. The coming annual festival of Pchum Ben is a time when families gather to honor their ancestors and pork is a popular meal at this time. The ministry promised to import pork, if necessary, to ensure adequate supplies for the festival at fair prices. Deputy director of the Cambodia Pig Farmers Association, Srun Peu, expressed his concerns for the livelihoods of farmers whose pigs are hit by the disease.

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In recent days, the government has announced that, despite spreading to three further provinces, the PRRS outbreak is now under control.

A new report from the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) gives more information on the two initial outbreaks. The first was on August 14 and involved a total of more than 20,800 pigs in 10 communes in Siem Reap province, where 1,725 pigs showed symptoms and 579 died. The following day, 936 pigs out of 12,845 belonging to seven communes in a nearby district in the same province showed signs of illness; 418 of them died. A week later, representatives from the National Veterinary Research Institute (NaVRI) visited the area to examine the pigs and collect samples. Affected animals had high fever (40-41 C) red spots on the skin and ears, constipation, difficulty breathing, discharge from the nose and pregnant sows aborted. A number of serum samples taken from the pigs tested positive for the PRRS virus.

In 2010, Phnom Penh Post reported that a number of pigs imported from Vietnam had to be destroyed when it was found that they were infected with PRRS.

PRRS is a viral disease affecting pigs of all ages with a broad range of symptoms including fever and intestinal, respiratory and reproductive problems. In the absence of secondary infections, the majority of animals will usually recover but subsequent performance may be impaired. Also known popularly as blue ear disease, PRRS may also cause a temporary blue color (cyanosis) of the ears.