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Bleak Picture for Russian African Swine Fever Situation

14 October 2011, at 12:00am

Major concerns have been raised over the potential for African Swine Fever that was first discovered in Georgia and has now spread to Russia to spread to other countries in Europe, writes ThePigSite Editor in Chief, Chris Harris.

At the recent World Pork Conference, the head of the Russian Veterinary Service, Rosselkhoznador, Sergey Dankvert said that the disease which is in the Northern Caucasus region is in danger of spreading.

There are fears that the disease, which has seen outbreaks reported in the Rostov region, could spread to the Ukraine and beyond.

And during the same conference, Dr Alejandro Thiermann from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), warned that the spread of the disease could get out of control and he said he was concerned that it could spread to the wild boar herd in central Europe.

The concern is so great that the disease could spread to other European countries that in Denmark between 11 and 13 October, the Danish veterinary authorities held a simulation exercise, looking at what would happen if it appeared in the Baltic states.

The first part of the exercise was conducted jointly with the Nordic and Baltic countries – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden. It included training exchange of information between relevant person in the Nordic and Baltic countries as well as investigating the exchange of resources within the areas of personnel and equipment.

For the second part of the simulation exercise, at the national level of each of the Nordic and Baltic countries, the overall aim was to test national contingency plans for control of ASF as well as for strategy and resources. All regional veterinary control offices in each of these countries will be involved in this exercise as well as part of the pork industry.

The exercise focused on management of suspicion and outbreaks including on farm measures, cleansing and disinfection and crisis organisation. There was also a jump in time, which made it possible to focus on planning of screening activities, with the intention to lift the restriction zones.

Start of the Russian Outbreak

Head of Rosselkhoznador, Sergey Dankvert

The start of the outbreak in Russia came from an incident first reported to the OIE in 2007 in Georgia – the first occurrence of the disease in this part of Europe. The outbreak then spread from Georgia through to Russian herds in the Kaliningradskaya Oblast towards the end of 2009.

Further outbreaks were reported in a wild life sanctuary near the town of Sochi in December of 2009 and then another incident was recorded in a back yard farm in Mozdokskiy Rayon, the Republic of North Ossetia.

During 2010, further cases of ASF were reported to Rosselkhoznador in the Krasnodarsky Krai and in the Rostov Region.

Backyard Herds

Most of the early incidents occurred in small backyard herds in small isolated villages, but in June last year, Rosselkhoznador also reported that samples taken from a wild boar also tested positive for ASF.

During the summer of 2010 further cases of the disease were reported in the Volgograd region and in one case Rosselkhoznador revealed the difficulty in containing the problem, when a number of infected carcasses were found illegally dumped.

Picture: Rosselkhoznador

After each reported case, Rosselkhoznador imposed a quarantine on the infected area and ensured the slaughter of the pigs in the area through a bloodless means to help prevent the spread of infection. The authorities carried out a census of the pig populations in the infected areas and set up veterinary police posts on the edge of the districts and closed minor roads.

Rosselkoznador said: "Other measures aimed at containment of the outbreak and prevention of ASF spread are carried out in accordance with the Instruction on measures aimed at ASF prevention and eradication."

More outbreaks were recorded throughout the region during 2010 both in backyard herds and in the wild boar population and the authorities' concern about the spread of the disease and their inability to control it were seen in a statement from Rosselkhoznador on an outbreak in the Astrakanskaya Oblast in September 2010.

The report said: "In addition to late detection of ASF (12 settlements for five days) in the Astrakhanskaya Oblast, there is a delay in adoption of quarantine provisions and carrying out of measures aimed at seizure and destruction of pigs in affected settlements and territories at risk.

"There are no clear data on the population of pigs in the Oblast (as of 1 September 2010, there are 10,000 to 16,000 pigs in the Astrakhanskaya Oblast).

"Most points of the action plan aimed at prevention and spread of ASF in the territory of the Astrakhanskaya Oblast are general and do not reflect any particular actions aimed at eradication of ASF. Local authorities and the prosecutor's office are not sufficiently engaged in prevention and eradication of ASF.

"People ignore the instructions of the Veterinary Service to keep pigs confined indoors.

"One of the possible reasons for the late detection of ASF is the low pig population density in the territory of the Oblast. Usually the Veterinary Service is not notified by the owners about individual cases of death.

"Possibly, introduction of ASF into the territory of the Astrakhanskaya Oblast resulted from uncontrolled coming of swine products from ASF-affected Subjects of the Russian Federation."

ASF in Russia-Ukraine Talks

Concerns about the spread of the disease rose to such a degree last year that the potential threat to Ukraine was raised in talks between Sergey Dankvert and the Minister of the Agrarian Policy of Ukraine, Nikolay Prisyazhnyk.

With further cases cropping up in the Volgograd and Rostov regions, the Russian authorities started to raise concerns about how the quarantine measures and the eradication methods that were being instituted were also be flouted by many people.

In one incident, Rosselkhoznador reported: "The Territorial Administration of the Rosselkhoznador for the Voronezhskaya and Volgogradskaya Oblasts detected a serious violation in the procedure of issue of veterinary accompanying documents at the SI Bogucharskaya Regional Station for Animal Disease Control. Such violations may cause introduction of African swine fever both into the territory of the Voronezhskaya Oblast and into other Russian Federation Subjects."

The breach of the controls involved documents that had been prepared for the export of feed grain from the region.

The Territorial Administration detected a violation at the SI Bogucharskaya Regional Station for Animal Disease Control – a businessman from the Rostovskaya Oblast had received from the chief veterinarian of the station two veterinary certificates for export of 2,000 tonnes of feed wheat by road from the company OOO Stepnoye of the Bogucharsky region. The investigation showed that more than 30 tonnes had been shipped from the holding.


As a result of the breaches, the chief veterinarian of the station was dismissed from service and the investigation documents were sent to the law-enforcement authorities.

In another case, the head of the Veterinary Department of the Rostovskaya Oblast, who had taken no measures for the control of African swine fever outbreak, was taken to court.

He was accused of not sending samples taken from dead pigs for testing.

The regional Chief Veterinary Officer, Lev Nikulin, his deputy Anatoly Kazakov and Director of the Veterinary Laboratory of Konstantinovsky Rayon Oleg Girkin were also accused of taking no measures for accurate diagnosis although they were aware of the presence of ASF signs in dead animals.

There were also accusations of the officials trying to cover up their mistakes and also allowing animals that had been slaughtered because of African Swine Fever to be sent for processing.

Disease Found Near St Petersburg

A disturbing jump in the spread of the disease came at the end of 2010, when infected pig carcasses were found dumped in the litter storehouse of a poultry farm in the Leningraskaya Oblast and St Petersburg region. Later further carcasses were found in a rubbish dump in the St Petersburg area.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of 2011, further cases continued to be recorded in the Volgograd, Rostov, Kaliningrad and Krasnodar regions in the south of Russia and well as around Nizhny Novgorod. Further reports were of cases found in the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions.

However, while measure have been instituted around each outbreak to contain the disease and further criminal cases have been taken against inspectors and farmers who have failed to implement the controls fully, further cases have been reported throughout this year and the disease is spreading unabated.

Prevention Measures

Sergey Dankvert, speaking at the World Pork Conference, gave no indication that the Russian authorities were likely to get a grip on the disease any time soon.

He said the main problem is that there is no vaccine to counter the disease. The preventative measures taken include the destruction of all pigs in a 20-kilometre radius of the outbreak.

Rosselkhoznador is also urging farmers to have the pigs vaccinated against Classical Swine Fever and also to keep their pigs indoors. The pigs and the pig houses should also be disinfected against ticks and lice every 10 days and measures taken to combat rodents.

The authority also tells farmers to only bring in pigs under veterinary control and to avoid non-decontaminated feeds. Any contact with an infected area should be limited and any case has to be reported immediately.

Rosselkhoznador adds: "In case African swine fever appears, quarantine should be introduced on affected farms. The whole swine population in the given focus of infection should be destroyed by bloodless method.

"Pigs' carcasses, manure, remaining feeds, low-value handling items should be incinerated. Ashes mixed with lime should be buried. Premises and territories of the farm should be disinfected with three per cent caustic-soda solution and two per cent formaldehyde solution.

"The whole swine population should be slaughtered within a 10-kilometre radius from the affected area, and the meat should be processed for preserves.

"Quarantine may be lifted six months after the last case of animal death, and pigs' breeding in the affected area is allowed not earlier than a year after the quarantine lifting."

Despite these safeguards, Mr Dankvert's words to the conference left a stark picture.

"We don't know if and when it will spread to the Baltic countries or through Ukraine to Hungary," Mr Dankvert said. "We can't kill the disease because there is no vaccine.

"It is like cancer or AIDS and you can try to control it but you can't kill it in nature.

"If you kill the whole herds, the ticks will be there infecting other animals."

Further Reading

- Find out more information on swine fevers by clicking here.

October 2011