PPD to review abattoir measures
Dominic Nathan, Straits Times March 26 1999PIG VIRUS ALERT IN SINGAPOREIt will also relook how it selects farms to export animals here and says killing Pulau Tekongboars is justifiedTHE Primary Production Department (PPD) will review how it selects farms to export animalshere and relook measures to protect abattoir workers, said its deputy director, Dr Chua Sin-Bin.Speaking at the third daily briefing on the outbreak, he said the department will try to learnwhatever it can from the current episode to make it safer, if possible.It has been suggested in media reports that abattoir workers should wear protective clothing,gloves and masks, as all the eight people who had come down with encephalitis, or braininflammation, had direct contact with the animals.Dr Chua said that the department would study whether such protection was feasible or practical."Nowhere else in the world do they do so in the slaughterhouse . . . Of course our people couldbe more careful in personal hygiene. That is something that we can get them to do and we willcertainly be reviewing it," he said.The department will also be studying how it can plug any possible loopholes in the way itselects, checks and certifies the farms which export animals to Singapore."No stone will be left unturned," he added.On the Defence Ministry's (Mindef) decision to kill an estimated 700 wild boars on PulauTekong, Dr Chua said it was justified as an extra precaution to protect soldiers who train on theisland.Mindef said on Wednesday that the Singapore Armed Forces would kill all the wild boars onPulau Tekong, although they are unlikely to carry the Japanese encephalitis or Hendra-likeviruses.A Mindef spokesman yesterday said: "The wild boars have always been a nuisance."Even if there is a very remote possibility that the animals might be infected, it is still anunacceptable risk as the well-being of our soldiers is foremost in our minds."PPD's Dr Chua added: "They are more of a nuisance on the island at the present moment,digging up the plants and roots, rather than being beneficial to the ecosystem of the island.""They are not of great significance from the environmental point of view." Asked to comment onthe role of wild boars in the ecosystem, senior curator at the zoo, Mr Subash Chandran, saidthat because the animals forage a lot, they are important in dispersing seeds and they also keepthe snake population down. "They do play an important role," he said. He believes there is alsoa small population of wild boars on Pulau Ubin and possibly even elsewhere in Singapore.