EU countries take measures against African swine fever

By Diana Yordanova

- Last updated on GMT

Countries at risk of ASF outbreaks, like Germany and Finland, have bolstered their preparedness for the disease
Countries at risk of ASF outbreaks, like Germany and Finland, have bolstered their preparedness for the disease

Related tags African swine fever Pig Eu Livestock Pork

Cases of African swine fever (ASF) are still very common in Russia, despite the country’s continued ban on EU pork exports to the market, imposed since January 2014 following a handful of cases in Poland and Lithuania.

While outbreaks have continued in the EU, Russia​ – where the ban was imposed on live pigs, pork and pig products over fears of importing ASF-infected meat and livestock – has notified the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) of around 2,800 ASF cases of domestic pigs and 90 cases in wild boars between July 2017 and 30 January 2018.

However, caution over ASF can be justified, as it can be persistent, remaining viable for long periods in blood and being infectious for three to six months in uncooked pork products. Moreover, no vaccine has yet been created.

The Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania continued to report cases between 2015 and 2017, with Latvian and Polish cases ongoing, and these countries are where the EU and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have been concentrating their anti-ASF efforts, said a European Commission official.

‘Little change’ in ASF situation

Steps taken have included: the adoption and revision of specific sustainable legislation for setting up regionalisation of health controls across EU national borders; EU financial support for surveillance, emergency and preventive measures; deployment of a community veterinary emergency team (CVET) in hotspots; EU audits of outbreaks; and training of veterinary officials, said a Commission spokesperson for health and food safety.

Meanwhile, outbreaks have also been reported since 2015 in EU neighbours western Ukraine and Moldova. “There is little change in the African swine fever situation in the eastern countries neighbouring the EU,”​ an EFSA spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews​.

In Ukraine​, veterinary authorities have established livestock movement controls, wildlife monitoring, and controls and monitoring containment zones, and have destroyed potentially infected animal products. In 2017, Ukraine made 11 weekly reports on ongoing outbreaks of ASF to the OIE, signalling that nearly 18,000 animals were currently susceptible to the disease, 623 had died from the disease and another 9,400 had been slaughtered, with their carcases being destroyed.

‘Significant steps’ to combat ASF taken

Although dealing with a smaller number of affected animals, Moldova is implementing control measures, with one outbreak occurring on 28 January. For now, there is little impact on EU pigmeat markets: “There are very limited pig product imports (mostly transformed products) from Moldova and Ukraine into the EU, and the current ASF situation does not affect this trade,”​ said an OIE spokesperson.

The OIE added that backyard cases of ASF were generally under-reported, a serious risk factor in eastern European countries. ASF is a very complex disease to control and eradicate in any country. Anybody eating a sandwich, made of contaminated pigmeat, is a potential spreader. Swill feeding, transport of contaminated pieces of meat, and a lack of biosecurity during hunting operations were also incriminated in recent outbreaks,​” the spokesperson said.

“All at-risk EU countries, such as Finland, Germany, Slovakia and Austria, have taken significant steps to enhance their level of ASF preparedness, and have also learnt lessons from infected countries,”​ the OIE added.

Officials from the OIE and EFSA both confirmed that there was a constant, real risk of ASF reintroduction in the EU from non-EU countries. 

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