Pork trade threatened for sixth year by African Swine Fever (ASF)

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Before 2016, African Swine Fever hadn’t been seen in Europe since 1985, but as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) turned its calendars over to 2021, the highly contagious disease was expected to show up for a sixth straight year.

The disease is endemic in most South-Saharan African countries and plenty active in Asia and Europe, according to the flow of OIE reports.

Since 2016, the world has seen 32,265 ASF outbreaks with 832,698 total cases. Pigs raised for commercial markets accounted for 14,327 outbreaks that made 10.1 million hogs susceptible to the disease. To control the disease, 8.2 million swine have been put to death.

The additional 17,938 outbreaks involved wild boar where 30,634 additional animals have been infected with AFF since the current endemic began.

In its most recent reporting for December 2020, OIE said there are currently new or ongoing outbreaks underway in 23 countries or territories. Eight of them are in Europe and include Germany, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine. Twelve are in Asia: People’s Republic of China, India, Indonesia, People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Timor- Leste, and Vietnam.  And Four in Africa, Nambia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia.

During the past five years, OIE has taken reports from 60 countries, or 30 percent of its member states, about ASF outbreaks.

For December 2020, Europe was experiencing 51 outbreaks involving swineherds, and 113 involving wild boars. Wild boars infected with ASF often involve only one animal. In Asia, there were 54 new outbreaks and 42 involved boars. In addition to commercial pigs and boars, OIE’s Early Warning System also tracks so-called backyard outbreaks that may involve a family pig or two.

“The global pattern of distribution of ASF in this period (December 2020) reveals a serious deterioration due to the spread of the disease, mainly in Europe and Asia, after the first occurrence in China in 2018,” the international report says.  OIE says through its Global Steering Committee, it needs to empower regional alliances in the fight against transboundary animal diseases.

OIE also cautioned members to handle the trade of pork in accordance with proper hygienic practices according to international standards so as to not become a source of infection. It also called upon member states to step up biosecurity measures and keep domestic pigs away from wild boar.

African swine fever is a viral disease that threatens both domestic pigs and wild boar with a high mortality rate but does not affect people.  The endemic has not yet reached North America.  For the past year, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has worked with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) on an ASF vaccine.

ASF is seen as such a deadly and fast-spreading viral disease, that Canadian officials fear it could devastate the country’s pork industry if it were to get started.   Increased research is part of Canada’s preparedness strategy, they say.   The CFIA- VIDO-InterVac agreement is to develop and test ASF vaccines and antivirals.

There are no vaccines or treatments approved for use against this pig disease,

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