Finland is Now on ASF Alert

6 March 2012, at 11:22am

ANALYSIS – The country's food safety authority has put out an alert over African swine fever (ASF), which has been reported from the first time in the region of Russia that borders Finland, writes senior editor, Jackie Linden. The disease represents a growing threat to the European pig industry.

The Finnish Food Safety Authority, Evira, has announced it is to initiate examinations of both domestic pigs and wild boars for signs of ASF.

The move follows an announcement a week ago from the Russian Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service, Rosselkhoznadzor, that there had been the first outbreak of ASF on a farm in the Republic of Karelia, which borders Finland. Eight pigs were reported to have died in that outbreak, which has not yet been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Rosselkhoznadzor reported that the most likely source of infection was food waste from local hospitals and kindergartens, and added that arrangements were in place to prevent further spread of the disease.

Evira reports that ASF has been detected on two farms in the Segezha region in the Republic of Karelia, which is east of Nurmes, some 160km from the Finnish border. So far there is no knowledge of how many pigs have caught the disease or where it stems from.

ASF started spreading in Georgia, in the Caucasus region, in 2007 from where it has spread to different parts of Russia, reports Evira. The first case of ASF in the neighbouring areas of Finland was detected near St Petersburg in autumn 2009. In addition, disease outbreaks were detected in 2011 in the area of the Leningrad oblast in January, in the vicinity of St Petersburg in March, and in the areas of both Murmansk and Archangel in April.

ASF is a highly contagious serious viral disease found in pigs and wild boars that requires legislative control in Finland, says Evira. In domestic pigs, the disease causes usually high fever, skin discoloration, laboured breathing and intestinal symptoms, and results in high mortality rates on pig farms. The disease is not transmitted to people and it has never been found in Finland.

Evira will examine both domestic pigs and wild boars for ASF in Finalnd. If farmers suspect that pigs on their farm show signs of ASF or any other serious contagious animal disease, they are obliged to immediately contact their municipal veterinarian for further investigation of the situation. If a wild boar is found sick or dead, this should also be reported to the municipal veterinarian in order to have the animal examined at Evira.

ASF can spread directly from one animal to another or indirectly with people, cars or, for example, poorly cooked meat. Feeding food waste to pigs is absolutely forbidden in Finland and throughout the EU. It is forbidden to import any pigs, pork or foodstuffs made of these even for own use from regions where ASF has been detected.

In addition, it is important to follow the general guidelines and recommendations for prevention of animal diseases provided by the Association for Animal Disease Prevention, ETT, added Evira.

In another area of Russia where there have been several ASF outbreaks, Krasnodar Krai, Rosselkhoznadzor reports that unannounced inspections found that the company, Ecoproduct, has been operating illegally by failing to meet health and biosecurity standards.