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Home > News > New Balkans ASF outbreaks 'disappointing but not surprising', as UK risk levels remain unchanged

New Balkans ASF outbreaks 'disappointing but not surprising', as UK risk levels remain unchanged

5th Jul 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The introduction of ASF in domestic pigs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia is disappointing, but not surprising, according to the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency. 

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health WOAH), the Bosnia and Herzegovina outbreak was in one pig on a domestic pig farm in Bijeljina in the north-east of the country, close to the borders with Serbia and Croatia.

ASF map July 23

“Several more outbreaks in domestic pigs in Bosnia and Herzegovina are yet to be reported to WOAH. Movement controls, surveillance within restricted zones and wildlife controls are being applied,” APHA said in its latest Europe ASF update.

Croatia has also reported ASF for the first time, with cases on five domestic pig farms near Drenovci in the south-east of the country. These farms are around 30km from the outbreak in Bosnia and Herzegovina and are also close to the border with Serbia. All farms contained fewer than 10 pigs.

The outbreaks follow rapidly on from the ASF re-emergence in Greece and the Czech Republic.

APHA said: “These outbreaks were detected close to the border with Serbia which has, according to ADIS, reported over 160 outbreaks in domestic pigs so far in 2023, and is not subject to European Commission ASF restrictions.

“Additionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia were two of nine Balkan countries (which included Greece) identified by EFSA as having a very high chance (66- 100%) of disease spread inside their borders, within a year of introduction (EFSA, 2019).

“It is of note that the initial outbreaks have been reported in domestic pigs, albeit in smallholdings, rather than wild boar, and close to borders with known ASF affected countries. The EFSA (2019) report predicted that the natural median spread of ASF due to wild boar movements was between 2.9-11.7 km/year, but that human mediated translocation of ASF remains an important contributing factor to disease spread.”

ASF threat

APHA has reassessed UK risk levels, which remain unchanged. Despite a drop in confirmed cases in wild boar in 2022, ASF is still circulating in wild boar across much of eastern Europe and ‘remains a threat with EU pork production at its lowest level in almost a decade’, the agency said, adding that the latest cases in wild boar in new regions across Italy demonstrates the difficulty of containing the disease.

The likely pathways of introduction to these regions are human mediated transport of infected products or contaminated equipment / products (fomites), with subsequent exposure of susceptible animals, although movement of wild boar from nearby regions cannot be ruled out.

“Given the above, we consider that the risk of entry of ASF virus in live animals and products of animal origin (POAO) from affected countries, remains at MEDIUM (occurs regularly),” the agency said.

“The potential high risk for non-commercial imports of pork products from ASF affected areas remains of high concern. Evidence from inspections at Great Britain ports suggest that there are several vehicles illegally bringing pork meat into Great Britain from some regions of the EU affected by ASF.

“Some of these instances involved large quantities of porcine POAO, some of which appear to be home-slaughtered and arrive in Great Britain from an undisclosed origin as a non-commercial import, with poor levels of biosecurity and food hygiene.

“Therefore, the risk of ASF entering Great Britain, from the human-mediated pathway and moving porcine POAO, is considered to remain at HIGH (occurs very often), though there is considerable uncertainty around this until data is fully collated and analysed, and we will reassess as further information becomes available.”

Keeping ASF out

  • APHA issued a reminder that it is no longer legal to personally bring in pork or pork products weighing over 2kg unless they are produced to the EU’s commercial standards. All travellers are also strongly advised to avoid bringing, buying or ordering pork products under 2kg – for example, fresh or frozen meat, dried or cured meats, sausages, salamis, or pâté – from affected parts of Europe.
  • It remains illegal for travellers to import meat or dairy products from Asia and other non-EU country areas.
  • Swill feeding any animal, whether pigs, poultry, ruminants, or wildlife is illegal and has the potential to cause substantial harm. All pig keepers are urged to ensure pigs are not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products.
  • All pig keepers, whether commercial holdings or not, should remain vigilant and ensure that any visitors or seasonal workers have not had any recent contact with pigs, pig products, pig premises, wild boar (including hunting) or equipment associated with such activities in the affected regions in Europe or other affected parts of the world.
  • Pig keepers and veterinarians should remind themselves of the clinical signs for ASF. Any suspect cases must be reported promptly. See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/african-swine-fever.