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Threat of African Swine Fever Spread in Eastern Europe: Urgent Need for International Collaboration

28 December 2012

One of the main recommendations of an FAO regional meeting on African Swine Fever (ASF) was that the disease should be considered as a top priority animal health problem by all affected countries and a threat for the whole Europe.

According to FAO, a regional consultation in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in early December 2012, resulted in a number of recommendations.

The group discussed the progressive spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Russian Federation, in Georgia, Armenia and in some other south Caucasian countries, and the threat of further spreading to Europe and Asia.

It was assessed that the effects include the socioeconomic impact of the disease affecting the pig production sector, particularly poor rural families, the financial losses due to high mortality and trade restrictions, the high cost of controlling outbreaks, and the negative impact on the development of the pig sector.

The low efficiency of national veterinary services of some countries in the region in terms of human, physical and financial resources, and also lack of good governance were considered to be significant. However, the sustainable control of ASF (and other Transboundary Animal Diseases) requires good governance of animal health systems, supported by appropriate public-private partnerships and continuously updated supporting legislation, it was agreed.

The lack of updated knowledge on certain aspects of the disease ecology and epidemiology was identified, as was a lack of sub-regional surveillance, prevention and control strategies despite presence of successful experiences in the control of ASF in many parts of the world.

The absence of a vaccine and treatment for the control of ASF emphasizes the crucial importance of sanitary measures.

A good validated methods and tools for ASF laboratory diagnostics are required, the group decided.

The globalisation of trade with rapid and long distance movements of swine and pork products increases the risk of ASF spreading from one country/region to another. This applies particularly to trade and movements that are not under the control of the veterinary services.

The growing importance of the pig production to respond to the growing demand in proteins of animal origin was also thought to be an important factor.

The Recommendations of the 24th (Astana, Kazakhstan in September 2010) and 25th (Fleesensee, Germany in September 2012) Conferences of the OIE Regional Commission for Europe, of the ASF Global Alliance workshop (Rome, Italy in September 2011), of the 4th Steering Committee meeting of the Global Framework for Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) for Europe (Brussels, Belgium in January 2012) require consideration.

The OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (notably Chapter 15.1) and OIE Manual of Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals (notably Chapter 2.8.1) and the following recent publications should also be considered:

  • Preparation of African swine fever contingency plans (FAO, FAO Animal Production and Health Manual No. 8)
  • Good practices for biosecurity in the pig sector (FAO and OIE, FAO Animal Production and Health Paper No. 169).


The participants of the meeting made the following 14 recommendations:

    • ASF has to be considered as a top priority animal health problem by all affected countries and a threat for the whole Europe.


    • ASF prevention and control shall be considered as an international public good, eligible to international solidarity and donor support, to initiate or intensify ASF prevention and control programmes in countries in need of funding.


    • To conduct epidemiological studies to better understand the ecology of ASF virus including the role of ticks and wild boar in the persistence and spread of the disease.


    • To conduct socio-economic analysis (including the direct and indirect losses due to ASF, livelihood, livestock sector strategies and value chain analysis), that can guide ASF control programs to be more successful as well as to provide evidence to policy makers on the need to invest in ASF prevention and control measures.


    • To consider the progressive modernisation of the pig production sector, while at the same time safeguarding backyard and traditional production systems by appropriate support policies.


    • To develop sub-regional strategies for the prevention and control of ASF in Europe and other endemic or at risk regions under the GF-TADs, based on specific agro-ecological systems; these strategies should in particular consider options for combining ASF and other TADs control activities whenever feasible, so as to optimise scarce resources.


    • Countries to review their ASF prevention, surveillance and contingency measures based on the most recent developments and knowledge, and in line with the sub-regional strategies (when available).


    • In particular, these measures should have as priority objective the immediate containment and eradication of ASF in new areas and countries, and:
      • include protocols for robust epidemiological investigations
      • be adapted to different production systems
      • include specific provisions for the control of wild boars population, in compliance with OIE standards on animal welfare and wildlife
      • strategies to control and eradicate ASF in wild boar population by means of depopulation measures should consider the possible negative effects of those measures
      • contain strong incentives for the involvement of farmers
      • include an awareness program directed at all stakeholders involved in the pig production and market chain
      • consider a multidisciplinary approach involving, for example, collaboration among different ministries and organisations/associations
      • contain robust biosecurity measures (such as the disinfection of trucks coming back from infected areas, the ban of feeding pigs with food waste presenting a risk for ASF transmission and spread , etc.) in line with the documents referred in the previous section
      • include appropriate and timely compensation mechanism - in case of stamping out control measures.


    • Countries to reinforce their Veterinary Services capacity in line with the OIE international standards on quality of Veterinary Services; to this end, countries should consider requesting relevant missions under the OIE Performance Vision Strategy (PVS) Pathway. In particular, countries should;
      • review and update their national legislation to ensure effective prevention and control of ASF
      • ensure that an effective chain of command for the prevention and control of ASF is in place
      • report on their ASF situation - both in domestic and wildlife populations - using the OIE World Animal Health Information System (WAHIS/WAHID), as part of their obligations as OIE Member countries.


    • To reinforce national and regional laboratory diagnostic capacities, train experts and promote the use of harmonized and validated methods, through the already existing EU network of reference laboratories, the OIE Laboratory Twinning Programme, and FAO reference centres.


    • To strengthen the exchange of information and best practices and improve ASF knowledge and coordination (including cross-border simulation exercises and trainings, including for laboratory expertise) between ASF-affected and at-risk countries in Europe ¡V but also in Asia -, using the GF-TADs mechanism.


    • Countries to conduct public awareness campaigns, for the application of biosecurity measures for ASF prevention and control and avoidance of behaviours that could lead to the persistence and spread of ASF.


    • Countries to consider requesting the assistance of Crisis Management Centre for Animal Health (CMCAH) and EU vet emergency team in case of ASF outbreaks and immediate risk.


  • The Global ASF alliance shall be further developed to provide a platform for a wide range of stakeholders from the public and private sector to share information on state-of-the art research techniques and advances, and act as a think tank for strategy development.

Further Reading

Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.
Go to a related article on this meeting by clicking here.
Find out more information on African Swine Fever by clicking here.

December 2012

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