As African swine fever (ASF) marches swiftly across many countries, the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) are calling on all nations and partners to join forces under a new initiative to keep this deadly pig disease at bay.
According to a joint FAO/OIE statement, the Global Control of ASF Initiative, recently launched under the GF-TADs umbrella, supports actors at every level to coordinate and strengthen control measures to minimize the impact of this complex and challenging disease.
Bringing together governments, the industry and specialists, FAO and OIE will present the initiative for the first time on a global stage as part of a call to action event Oct. 26-30.
The spread of ASF shows no signs of slowing down, the international organizations said. The contagious disease has led to the loss of more than 7 million pigs in Asia alone since sweeping into this region. More than 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe are currently affected, and the Americas are trying to prevent an incursion into their territory.
"Our goal is to prevent the spread -- and, ultimately, eradicate -- this disease, leveraging the latest science, best practices and international standards," FAO director-general QU Dongyu said in a video message to participants of the call to action event.
"If not controlled, this disease will jeopardize progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," he continued, calling on all stakeholders to take action to stop the spread of ASF, promote animal health and welfare and safeguard the livelihoods of farmers.
"Today, no country is safe from African swine fever," OIE director-general Monique Eloit said. "The number of countries across the world reporting outbreaks to the OIE continues to grow. This corresponds to the biggest animal disease outbreak of our generation."
She stressed the need for continued investment in veterinary services and the effective implementation of international standards, particularly those related to biosecurity and surveillance, to bring ASF under global control.
The disease causes up to 100% fatality in wild and domesticated pigs, and there is no effective vaccine. Although not infectious to humans, pig production is critical for many economies and to the food security and livelihoods of millions of people, FAO and OIE said. The fatal disease continues to extend its reach, causing further damage in the socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of a weeklong online event, government representatives, veterinarians and specialists from around the world will share knowledge and experiences on tools, approaches and state-of-the-art research. Coordinated actions as part of the initiative will build resilience utilizing practical guidance, appropriate to specific needs and contexts, FAO and OIE explained.
Call for action
ASF is a complex disease that survives in pork products and persists in the environment for long periods, making control and eradication very difficult. Cases in wild boar are also a concern not only for their potential implication in disease transmission but also for biodiversity and wildlife management, according to the FAO/OIE statement.
Global control of ASF cannot be achieved by one sector or one country alone, the groups said. Through a coordinated effort, all stakeholders in the pig production chain joining the Global Control of ASF GF-TADs Initiative can contribute to:
- Protect the livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
- Safeguard animal health and welfare.
- Stabilize the pig production sector as well as meat and feed prices in regional and international trade and, thus, contribute to food security.
- Ensure that people have access to nutrition to promote healthy lives and well-being.
As part of the Global Control of ASF GF-TADs Initiative, FAO and OIE call on members and partners to:
- Carry out national risk analysis and reinforce risk management, including contingency planning, prevention, early detection, rapid response and compensation policies to support industry recovery.
- Maintain a high level of awareness on ASF risk mitigation among farmers, veterinarians, butchers, hunters, input suppliers and other value chain stakeholders.
- Foster and support the implementation of good biosecurity practices, which are key to prevent further spread of ASF.
- Reinforce and maintain border inspection to prevent disease spread between countries through illegal practices such as the smuggling of pork, pork products and live animals during travel and migration.
- Finalize research, development and validation of potential ASF vaccines as well as related vaccination strategy.
- Support the improvement of laboratory diagnostics and rapid screening tools for ASF.
- Develop a holistic approach to ASF control in wildlife, taking all pig types into account.
- Foster solidarity and cooperation between countries with varying levels of experience, resources and capacity for ASF prevention and control.
- Foster public/private partnership for investment in ASF risk mitigation and management.
Read more about what FAO and OIE, under the GF-TADs framework, are doing to help countries curb the spread of ASF.