A spokesperson for the Latvian Food and Veterinary Service (FVS) Ilse Meister revealed that, since the beginning of the year, the number of infected boars in the country tripled versus the same period last year, reaching a total of 411 head. The situation may get worse in the months ahead, as the disease spreads during warm weather.
“FVS notes that spring and summer is the period of increased danger for ASF disease [outbreaks], so it is necessary to comply with comprehensive biosecurity measures to prevent the disease penetrating the domestic pig population,” said Meister.
In neighbouring Estonia, local veterinary experts are concerned over NATO military manoeuvres for Kevadtorm [the Estonian Defence Army’s spring drill] involving hundreds of soldiers trespassing into ASF quarantine zones, with the danger of them transferring the disease to new areas in Estonia or nearby countries.
No legal basis
“All participants in the manoeuvres must be aware that they could be carriers of the disease. At the moment [government] veterinary and food departments have no legal basis to establish restrictions or prohibitions [on the movement of the military],” said the country’s Veterinary and Food Board director general Indrek Halliste.
In both Baltic countries, according to estimates from veterinary specialists, ASF has significantly increased the size of the area it covers compared to the same date last year. A similar situation has occurred in the Khmelnitsky Oblast in Ukraine, where the first outbreak of the disease was detected at the beginning of May.
Data from a spokesperson for Ukraine’s State Food and Consumer Service revealed the virus had been discovered at a private household, where it killed up to 14 pigs. This was the ninth outbreak of ASF in the country since the beginning of the year. The incident has forced Belarus veterinary authorities to fully prohibit any imports of pork and pig products from Ukraine’s Khmelnitsky Oblast.
Sergei Khomenko, an expert on wildlife and disease ecology at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has suggested that ASF is becoming a pan-European problem, as the disease is heading west, threading through the territories of Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and the Balkans.
“Unfortunately, ASF is no longer an exotic disease for Europe. It has affected Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, with the latter managing to control the spread of ASF. Polish vets are keeping the defence at 100%, because behind them there are Germany and France, the EU’s biggest pork producers,” explained Khomenko.
He also indicated that the line of propagation of the disease divided Ukraine into two parts – east and west – which is probably the worst possible scenario, as it can now move in both directions. At the same time, due to the conflict with the rebels, the veterinary situation in the east of the country remains a mystery for Kiev authorities.
The disease has also has not bypassed Russia, where an outbreak was detected at a private household in the country’s Oryol Oblast. Veterinary services in the country have reported significant progress in fighting the disease since it was first identified in 2007. However, since that time, it has claimed the lives of nearly 1 million pigs in the country and outbreaks are continuing to emerge.