Africa swine fever outbreak in Ukraine

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

Backyard pig farms are important for the livelihood of Ukrainian farmers
Backyard pig farms are important for the livelihood of Ukrainian farmers

Related tags Ukraine Infectious disease Influenza Livestock Pork

Ukraine has been rocked by an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) which has left more than 700 pigs at risk of catching the highly contagious disease.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) has confirmed that a pork farm close to Ukraine’s westerly city of Chernivtsi has been hit by an outbreak of ASF. News of the disease was disseminated by the OIE on Wednesday 8 June.

An estimated 700 pigs on the farm are believed to be at risk of contracting the infectious disease, a virus which causes haemorrhagic fever in pigs, often with a high rate of death in up to 10 days.

So far, 55 pigs have been reported to have contacted the virus and have died. No plans have been confirmed to euthanise the remaining livestock to stop the disease from spreading further.

Emergency action

Animal disease specialists in Ukraine have put in place a host of measures to control the virus: surveillance and quarantine zones have been installed inside the Novoselytsky region, where the virus was detected.

Ukraine has confirmed it also plans to carry out proper disposal of animal products, as well as the removal by-products and waste.

ASF started in Georgia in 2007 and gradually spread across the eastern region of Europe and emerged in Ukraine in 2014, according to information from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Ukraine was able to successfully control the disease from entering the country for seven years while the disease tore through Eastern Europe. In 2014, the virus spread from two of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, Belarus and Russia, and, as its veterinary service was in process of reform, it was unable to stop the disease from entering the country.

You cannot say that Ukraine doesn’t undertake action to control the disease; they do,​” said Andriy Rozstalnyy, animal production and health officer at the FAO. “It’s a priority for them, as the pork industry is important for agriculture, food security and the livelihood of rural farmers.​”

Health bodies criticised

One of the problems Ukraine has with controlling the disease is the fact that it has no access to vaccines. Since there are no prophylactics to combat ASF; the only way to prevent the disease from spreading is for producers to have a very high level of biosecurity.

Rozstalnyy also questioned whether Europe’s leading animal health organisations were doing enough to help at-risk countries like Ukraine control the virus.

In general, Ukraine needs more assistance in the implementation of its disease control plan.

Creating a department for sustainable pork production and resolving the issue of compensation for stamping out the disease, and providing access to vaccines would help ​[control ASF],​” he said.

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