It has just reappeared on the American continent, after almost 40 years of absence, and was recently detected in domestic pigs in Germany. African swine fever affects many countries, causing massive animal culling and considerable economic losses.
In late July, cases were reported in the Dominican Republic, the first in “about 40 years,” according to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which called for “urgent action” to stop the spread of this viral disease.
– No risk to humans –
Historically present in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease, called African Swine Fever (AFF), or African Swine Fever (PSA), poses no risk to humans. Very contagious, only affects pigs.
High fever, loss of appetite and skin bleeding are among the symptoms. The mortality rate can reach 100%, says the OIE.
No vaccine or treatment has been shown to be effective so far.
The virus is present in all bodily fluids and is very resistant. It is transmitted from one animal to another through direct contact between them, through movement in vehicles, by people from infected areas and also through food – for example, if domestic pigs are fed with contaminated waste.
– Expansion –
“Due to its complex epidemiology, the disease has spread very quickly recently, affecting more than 50 countries in Africa, Europe and Asia since 2018”, recalls the OIE.
Among them are China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Russia, Italy (Sardinia) and, more recently, Germany, Europe’s largest pork producer.
Second and third European producers, Spain and France have been unharmed so far. These countries have already faced the disease in the past, after cases that have appeared in the Iberian Peninsula since 1957.
In 2018-2019, African swine fever decimated Chinese pigs, disrupting supply to this market. It is the first in the world for consumption, as well as for the production of pork.
Since then, the country has rebuilt practically its entire herd at great speed and at very high cost.
– Harmful to breeders –
The virus can have severe repercussions for producers. When a farm is contaminated, all animals are sacrificed.
At the national level, the country loses its phytosanitary status. This implies limiting, or even banning, not only live pigs, but also feed made from pork.
A country like Germany relies heavily on foreign sales. The loss of this market generates surpluses and lowers prices.
In general, states negotiate “regionalization” agreements so that unaffected regions can continue to export.
– Means of prevention –
In disease-free countries, import surveillance must be carried out to ensure that infected pigs, or products based on this animal, are not introduced into their territories.
Prevention also involves the correct disposal of food waste collected from planes, ships, or vehicles from infected countries, stresses the OIE.
In addition, breeding sites must maintain “biosecurity” measures, especially with regard to the entry of animals, food, supplies and visitors.
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