Rome, August 21 (Interfax) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is warning a number of countries about a higher risk of pigs becoming infected with African swine flu (ASF) and is calling for them not to be fed human food scraps.
“Following the first-ever detection of African swine fever in Ukraine, FAO is warning that while control measures appear to have temporarily halted the disease’s spread, it has established a firm foothold in the Caucasus and poses an ongoing risk to neighboring areas,” the organization says in a press release.
“In addition to some other parts of Ukraine, nearby countries like Moldova, Kazakhstan and Latvia – while have large pig populations raised on household or family farms, and oftentimes weak biosecurity protocols – are also now at high risk of disease introduction,” it cautions.
“National and local authorities in the entire region should scale up their prevention measures an be ready to respond in case of further outbreaks,” the press release quotes the FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth as saying. “This could be the first of more outbreaks to come, according to our disease analyses,” he said.
African swine fever does not affect human beings, but mortality among pigs can be extremely high, the FAO says. “In 2011, up to 300,000 pigs died or were culled as a result of ASF outbreaks in the Russian Federation, incurring an estimated $240 million in economic losses,” the press release says. Rosselkhoznadzor, Russia’s food safety watchdog, estimates the damages caused by the disease in the country at almost 25 billion rubles for the past five years.
“Humans often contribute to [AFS's] spread, even via what would seem a harmless discarded sandwich. Foodstuffs that contain ASF-contaminated pork or pork products, such as cured meats, can be consumed by scavenging free-ranging pigs, kept by many vulnerable families in the region for income and their own household food needs. These pigs can be exposed by feeding on contaminated food among refuse, by consuming improperly disposed pig carcasses and pork parts that are infected or if they eat a discarded ham sandwich that contains the virus,” the FAO says.
This is why the organization is recommending that pigs not be allowed to consume food scraps, what it calls “swill feeding.” Preventing that from happening can be tough in conditions of limited resources, when swill feeding is a low-cost way to raise pigs.
“FAO studies on ASF in the Russian Federation indicate that swill feeding is responsible for 97 percent of all new infections in domestic pigs. The backyard sector, which accounts for 34 percent of the entire domestic pig population, is typically infected first before subsequently passing the virus on to small commercial farms and eventually industrial farms,” the press release says.
“According to FAO’s mapping of wild boar populations in Europe, there is cause for concern: moving westward from the Caucasus region, wild boar populations steadily increase and become particularly dense in countries such as France, Italy, and Spain. The number of domestic pigs likewise increases significantly moving westward from the Russian Federation, with Poland, Hungary, and Germany marking the outer limits of large-scale commercial farming that exists throughout Western Europe,” the FAO says.
ASF will be that much more difficult to combat as it finds a convenient host in dense populations of susceptible species, both farmed and wild pigs,” it says.
[UA EUROPE EEU EMRG HEA FOD]