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African swine fever spreading further in eastern Europe

6th Oct 2016 / By Alistair Driver

African swine fever (ASF) is continuing to cause problems across eastern Europe, with new cases identified in four countries in the past fortnight including the first ever cases in Moldova.

wild boarTwo outbreaks were identified in backyard pigs in Moldova, which is not in the EU, in early October, after pigs died in September, some of which showed symptom of ASF.

A total of 11 pigs died of the disease and two more were destroyed. Both cases were attributed to swill feeding.

Data from world animal health organisation, OIE, shows, in the past fortnight, four cases of ASF have been discovered in Poland, as well as three in Lithuania and two in Russia. The disease has been discovered on farms and in wild boar (picture shows wild boar from, which are a major cause of disease spread in the region.

Other Eastern European EU countries, including Hungary, Romania and Slovakia have put wild boar surveillance areas in place along the borders, part funded by EU programmes.

Russian concerns

By mid-August there had been more than 160 ASF outbreaks in Russia alone, with vets expecting 2016 will be the worst year on record.  

Pig World’s Russian columnist Vladislav Vorotnikov has written about how industry leaders have called on Russian president Vladimir Putin ‘to apply to the strictest measures’ to address the problem, including ‘fully exterminating wild boars in European part of Russia’.

Russian Government officials are also keen to ‘bring order into small-scale pig farming’ to help address the problem.

ASF is described as a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs and wild boar affecting all age groups.

With high virulence forms of the virus, ASF is characterised by high fever, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin and internal organs, and mortality rates up to 100 per cent.

Transmission can be through direct contact between sick and healthy animals and through feeding infected meat and via vehicles, implements and clothes, as well as biologic vectors such as soft ticks.

NPA concern

The NPA has expressed concern about the risks posed to the UK pig industry by ASF, particularly if it got into the growing wild boar population.

Defra insists, however, despite outbreaks in commercial pigs in Eastern Europe, the risk of ASF introduction to the UK from this region remains ‘very low’, that is, ‘rare but could occur’.

It says the disease itself is still relatively contained in the restriction zones, and EU rules cover the movement of live animals and the safe trade in meat and other products of animal origin.

But it adds: “However if the spill over into commercial pigs herds becomes a frequent occurrence and restriction zones do not cover the areas where these herds are present then the risk of some products entering the single market from affected farms can increase as products could leave the premises before suspicion of the disease.

“We would like to remind all pig keepers to be vigilant, maintain biosecurity including the swill feeding ban and report any clinical signs of suspect disease promptly to a veterinarian.”

The NPA is also calling on Defra to ensure sufficient resources are allocated to protecting the livestock industry from animal disease after the UK leaves the EU.

NPA's wild boar briefing can be viewed here