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Pace of outbreak in China picks up as Asian countries step up border surveillance.

Tim Lundeen

November 30, 2018

4 Min Read
EFSA wild boar.jpg

While much of the recent focus on African swine fever (ASF) has been focused on the continually changing situation in China, eastern and central Europe has been struggling with ASF in wild boar and domesticated swine for longer.

Now, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published an update on the epidemiological situation of ASF in Europe. In the latest report, experts assess the effectiveness of different measures that can be taken when a case of ASF is detected in an area that was previously disease-free and is far from affected areas.

Using a simulation model, the EFSA experts concluded that early detection coupled with the application of measures such as quick removal of carcasses and intensive hunting in the specially designated hunting areas increases the probability of eradication.

EFSA said the experts also observed seasonal peaks in the numbers of animals that tested positive and were found dead — summer and winter for wild boar and summer for domestic pigs.

The report calls for more research to understand the causes of the introduction of ASF in pig farms and how this can be prevented, EFSA said, noting that it also recommends control options for different scenarios such as in non-affected areas close to or far away from affected areas or where the disease has been present for more than one year.

More detail on the European ASF situation can be found at the following links:

* Epidemiological analyses of African swine fever in the European Union (November 2017 until November 2018).

* Understanding ASF spread and emergency control concepts in wild boar populations using individual‐based modelling and spatio‐temporal surveillance data.

China update

In China, the ASF outbreak has picked up pace, causing at least one fresh outbreak on average a day this month and encroaching on major cities including Beijing and Shanghai, China, according to a recent Bloomberg report.

At least 20 provinces covering most of China’s northeastern, eastern and central areas have reported pigs infected with ASF, Bloomberg said. Authorities have stepped up surveillance around border areas after the disease was found close to North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos.

Russia's veterinary authority Rosselkhoznadzor is also monitoring new cases near its border with China, according to other reports. While Russia has been reporting ASF outbreaks in its European regions, reported cases in Siberia are still more than 3,000 km west of the Russian Far East region.

According to the Bloomberg report, veterinary officials met in Beijing last week to assist neighboring countries prepare for possible further international spread, especially through the informal movement of pigs, pork products and contaminated food that may be used as livestock feed.

“There’s still no theory as to why it has spread despite the ban on movement,” said Wantanee Kalpravidh, regional manager of the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization's Emergency Center for Transboundary Animal Diseases. “It’s a concern for countries in the region because we share the same risks even though there’s no official import and export between some countries.”

At a recent press conference, Huang Bauxu, deputy head of China's Animal Health & Epidemiology Center, said almost half of the ASF outbreaks in China are spread via vehicles and hog traders, while about a third come from contaminated swill, the Bloomberg report said.

Huang added that feeding kitchen waste to pigs has caused 23 cases, while 13 outbreaks have been spread by transport of live hogs and products across regions, Reuters said in its report of the press conference, held following the discovery of the virus in Beijing.

The epidemiology center had not yet found any contaminated feed supplies, Huang told Reuters.

The virus found last week in a wild boar in the far north is a different strain to the one found in domestic pigs, and very likely came from outside China, Huang also said, warning that there are rising risks of the new strain being transmitted to farm-raised pigs.

“To eradicate the disease in the short term is extremely difficult,” Yu Kangzhen, vice minister at China’s agriculture ministry, told a national conference posted on its website on Nov. 30, the Bloomberg report said. The ministry is “ready for long-term fight.”

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