Border states on alert as African Swine Fever hits Georgia

by 5m Editor
8 June 2007, at 10:59am

GEORGIA - Georgia has been hit by the devastating pig disease African Swine Fever, which could also threaten neighbouring countries.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs. It causes fever and results in very high pig mortality. African Swine Fever does not affect humans.

“This is a dramatic development in the international distribution of African Swine Fever, which has been almost entirely confined to sub-Saharan Africa since 1990,” said Jan Slingenbergh, FAO Senior Animal Health Officer.

The disease has a catastrophic effect on commercial and smallholder pig production and has serious socio-economic consequences for rural livelihoods.

It is a transboundary animal disease with the potential for wide international spread.

There is no vaccine against the disease; stamping out is the only remedy.

Georgia reported that outbreaks have started at the end of April in 10 regions spread across the country. A total of 20 000 pigs in village and commercial farms have been slaughtered.

Georgia has about half a million pigs, kept on commercial and many smallholder farms.

Import restrictions

“The incursion of ASF is of great concern for Georgia and its neighbouring countries,” Slingenbergh said. “Delayed detection of the virus has resulted in a long danger period where the disease has been unrecognized and the virus could have moved to neighbouring countries. Armenia, Azerbaidjan and the Russian Federation should be on high alert,” he added.

Russia's food safety watchdog has now imposed restrictions on meat imports from Georgia after an outbreak of African swine fever registered in the South Caucasus country.

The outbreaks of African swine fever in Georgia have been registered in 10 populated areas, including Tbilisi. In these areas, 20,000 infected pigs have been destroyed. Georgia has imposed restrictions on the movement of cattle, contaminated premises have been disinfected, and a quarantine regime has been introduced in the disease-stricken areas.

It is probable that the virus has entered Georgia through imported frozen or processed pig meat. In the past, in some countries swill feeding, in particular swill originating from aircraft and ships, has been incriminated as a major source of infection.

The European Union, the World Organisation for Animal Health and FAO will send a joint team of experts to Georgia in the next days to assess the situation and advise the government on immediate control measures.

Persisting virus

The virus causing the disease can survive for up to 15 weeks in meat, and up to half a year in processed hams. Pigs can acquire African Swine Fever by eating infected meat or tissues, by direct contact with an infected pig, and by contact with contaminated material and equipment, such as buckets, needles, clothing and vehicles.

ASF virus may remain viable for long periods in infected pig tissues, meat and processed pig products, which should not enter the food chain.

During an outbreak, recommended control measures are:

  • infected and suspected infected farms must be placed in quarantine;
  • no movement of pigs or any products of pig origin should be allowed;
  • all infected and in-contact pigs must be slaughtered;
  • carcasses must be burnt or buried deeply on site;
  • vehicles should be disinfected on entering and leaving farms;
  • personnel should ensure that shoes, clothes and equipment are disinfected between farm visits.

The active participation of pig owners and keepers is crucial for a successful control campaign and requires a major consultation and communication campaign.

For more information on African Swine Fever, click here.

5m Editor