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Nearly 5 million pigs lost to ASF outbreaks in Asia so far

The FAO has released a report detailing how almost 5 million pigs have now died or been culled due to infection with African swine fever (ASF).

20 August 2019, at 11:59am

Since the first outbreaks in China were reported in August 2018, African swine fever has been set on a collision course of pig herds in Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, Lao PDR, Mongolia and Vietnam. According to the latest data, published here, total pig losses represent more than 10 percent of the whole pig population in China, Vietnam and Mongolia.

The FAO says that it is providing support to all affected and unaffected regions to increase biosecurity efforts and to prevent further spread of the disease. In a statement released online recently, FAO's Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Juan Lubroth said that great emphasis is being put on disease control efforts

“As there is no commercially available vaccine, we need to place greater emphasis on other disease counter efforts. Countries must be vigilant at borders – land, sea or air – in preventing the disease’s entrance and spread through the introduction of infected pigs or contaminated pork products," Lubroth explains, "Outbreaks need to be reported immediately."

“We are urging at-risk countries to implement effective biosecurity measures to prevent infected live pigs or contaminated pork products from crossing their borders,” he said.

FAO's emergency response

FAO’s Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health (EMC-AH) has deployed several response teams to assist countries in curbing the disease, in collaboration with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The teams worked with veterinary services and government representatives to increase biosecurity measures in and around farms, and advise on effective culling techniques that respect international animal welfare standards.

The EMC-AH has also responded to requests from ASF-free countries in the Asia region for guidance on protecting against the disease. In addition, the centre activated an ASF Incident Command Group in order to streamline FAO’s activities and key messages on the disease.

What is African swine fever?

African swine fever is caused by the Asfarviridae family of viruses which are distinct from the viruses associated with Classical swine fever. There are 22 known types of the ASF virus, allowing the epidemiological tracing of outbreaks to the source.

The infection can be introduced to uninfected herds in a number of ways:

  • the feeding of contaminated feed and contaminated food waste used to supplement feed;
  • through the bites of soft-bodied ticks, lice and flies;
  • through inoculation with contaminated syringes and use of contaminated surgical equipment; and
  • through the introduction of infected pigs to the herd.

Transmission of the virus within the herd is generally through direct contact with infected bodily discharges, faeces and vomit.

There is no live or attenuated vaccine for the prevention of ASF therefore control of the virus is reliant on strict biosecurity.

Read more about ASF here.