Speaking at a committee meeting of Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor, the country’s chief veterinary officer Nikolay Vlasov said Russia now faced a rising threat from avian influenza (AI), including strains lethal to humans. He pointed out that the AI virus from Europe had already spread to Russia, with the first outbreaks reported at the end of last year and the beginning of 2017, including in Moscow Oblast.
In addition, he said, Russia was under threat from AI strains from south-east Asia, which would initially hit farmers in the country’s far eastern regions. He indicated that the likelihood of these strains entering the country was now “highly probable” and called on veterinary agencies to “pay a lot of attention to this issue”, noting that people in Asia had already died from highly pathogenic strains of the virus.
The AI strain from Central Asia was also a danger to Russia, said Vlasov, suggesting that this strain could enter Russia through Siberia and eventually spread to the larger territories, even reaching the country’s northern borders.
Speaking at the same meeting, Russia’s Agriculture Minister Alexandr Tkachev warned about the rapid spread of ASF, saying that the virus had been detected in Siberia for the first time this year. Since the start of the epidemic in Russia, 1,000 outbreaks have been registered and direct losses to the country’s pig farmers have reached RUB 5 billion (US$130m), while indirect losses are estimated at RUB75bn (around US$2bn, taking into account the currency fluctuations of recent years).
Meanwhile, Russian consultancy business Petrova Five Consulting pointed to a possible epidemic of nodular dermatitis in cattle, saying the first outbreaks of this disease were registered in the country back in 2015. However, with the situation getting worse, Russia could experience a livestock shortage and price hikes of nearly 7-10% by as early as mid-2017.
Finally, the changing climate in the Arctic is leading to the possibility of new anthrax outbreaks among the northern deer population. At the moment, Russia accounts for the largest herd of these animals in the world, but according to the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Veterinary Virology and Microbiology, the country now needs to cull some deer to curb the possibility of further virus spread.
Plans for such a cull have been confirmed by Dmitry Kobilkin, governor of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, who said this would take place this year. In early 2017 the deer population in the northern region amounted to 770,000 head. However, Kobilkin did not specify what level of cull the authorities would consider appropriate.