According to Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor, the fight against ASF in the Baltic States is insufficient and poses a threat for Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast, as well as the countries of Central Europe.
Several new outbreaks of the disease were discovered recently in Lithuania, as laboratory studies confirmed the presence of the virus in a population of wild boars in the Skapishkisa, Shimonyay and Kupiškis District Municipalities.
"ASF has recently spread to the central part of Lithuania, where large pig farms are located. It is possible that Lithuania will ask the European Union (EU) to expand the boundaries of the buffer zone for the disease," stated Jonas Milius, head of Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service (FVS). He said the virus was also spreading to neighbouring Belarus.
"The uncertain situation with ASF in neighbouring Belarus complicates any forecasts on how long it takes for the virus to spread, so we must learn to live with this disease," he added.
Since the beginning of the year, 37 cases of ASF in wild boars and six in pig farms were reported in Lithuania, which forced the authorities to cull 19,000 pigs. In December, the European Commission allocated additional support to the country of€2m, following fears that the situation was getting worse.
"This aid is an unprecedented case – an exception made for Lithuania. ASF affected not only our country, we are a buffer zone protecting the whole of Europe," said the country’s Agricultural Minister Virginia Baltraytene.
In Latvia and Estonia ASF remains more stable. On 1 January 2015, Latvia cancelled the state of emergency introduced in more than 40 administrative territories of the country during July and September. However, several new outbreaks of the disease among wild boars in the country were confirmed in December, including two in new municipal districts.
Also, in December 2014 traces of ASF were reported in ready-to-cook products imported from Latvia to Belarus. The same products had been previously revealed in Russia. Rosselkhoznadzor suspected that these products were made from raw material imported to Belarus from one of the Baltic States.
"Despite the decrease in the number of ASF outbreaks, there is still a risk of further spread of the disease through the illegally imported products," said Anna Joffe, a representative of Latvia’s Food and Veterinary Service. The last outbreak of ASF in a pig farm in the country was discovered on 17 September, while, in total in 2014, 32 outbreaks of the disease were revealed on the country’s farms.
In 2014 Estonia faced only seven outbreaks of ASF – all among wild boars. The country still fears further spread of the disease, however, and is considering a cull in the population of wild boars.
"A large population of wild boars, which is out of control, is a problem which we and many other European countries have to deal with," said Peep Männil, head of the department for monitoring wildlife at the Estonia’s Environment Agency.
However, experts noted that, since October, the spread of ASF had calmed, as the disease spread is weaker in the cold season. But from mid-spring, major outbreaks and an expansion in the range of the disease spread are possible.