African swine fever (ASF) is expected to spread beyond Russia and the Caucasus region into Europe, according to the United Nations’ food agency.
There is no vaccine for ASF, which has become established in Georgia, Armenia and southern Russia, with an increasing number of long-distance jump outbreaks occurring in northern areas this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Reuters reports that long-distance jumps are food-borne, as virus survives in pig meat products carried by travelers that results in a new outbreak at the destination where food scraps may be fed to pigs.
“African swine fever is fast becoming a global issue,” says Juan Lubroth, FAO’s chief veterinary officer. “It now poses an immediate threat to Europe and beyond. Countries need to be on the alert and to strengthen their preparedness and contingency plans.”
ASF made its way into Georgia from southern Africa in 2006, entering through the Black Sea port of Poti, where garbage from a ship was taken to a dump where pigs came to feed, FAO said.
ASF is currently spreading northwards at the rate of roughly 770 miles a year. Typically, ASF has distinct seasonal outbreaks in the summer and fall. But long-distance jumps have also occurred as the ASF wave travels northward.
The frequency of these jumps grows as the size of the original outbreak expands. The ASF virus strain now spreading is a very aggressive one, the FAO said.
At the start of the year, 17,000 pigs had either died from ASF or had to be culled in Russia. Last year, an estimated 60,000 pigs were either culled or died of ASF in Russia.