10 May 2019 - Dr Etienne Bonbon, Senior Veterinary Advisor for FAO’s Emergency Management Centre for Animal Health, and Dr Andriy Rozstalnyy, Animal Production and Health Officer for FAO’s Animal Health Service, participated in the African swine fever (ASF) Forum 2019, a two-day event held in Ottawa, Canada, on 30 April and 1 May 2019.
The event was organized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) under the auspices of Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Under Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture. FAO called for immediate action to prevent the disease entering ASF-free countries, and at the same time to contain the spread of the current outbreaks in affected regions. The event brought together over 150 delegates from 15 countries and the pork industry, with a panel including representatives from CFIA, FAO, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), among others. It served as an opportunity for key players to come together to discuss measures to strengthen preventative actions by countries that can all be considered at risk. The Forum was held to address a threat that is common to Canada, Mexico and the United States, in addition to Brazil and the entire region of the Americas, currently free from ASF.
The agenda focused on four key areas:
- preparedness planning
- enhancing biosecurity
- ensuring business continuity
- coordinated risk communications
In a news release about the Forum, the CFIA included facts on the virus, namely that ASF is a devastating viral disease that is contagious, stable over wide ranges of temperatures and pH levels for long periods and can spread rapidly through both direct and indirect contact with infected pigs and pork products. The news release stressed that humans cannot contract the disease as ASF only affects members of the pig family. A clear and targeted communication strategy could be effective at reducing this type of contamination risk. In addition, it is important to note that there is no treatment for or vaccine against ASF.
The Canadian Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), Dr Jaspinder Komal, summarized in a statement issued on 1 May that representatives worked together over the course of the event to develop a framework to facilitate ongoing international collaboration and action in the key areas listed above. He explained that this framework will be used to:
- maintain a high state of readiness to be able to quickly control ASF if it enters the Americas region;
- strengthen biosecurity measures to thwart the entry of ASF and lessen its spread;
- establish agreements in the swine sector to mitigate the impacts of ASF on trade; and
- develop effective communication to best inform Canadians and neighbouring countries about the risks of ASF.
An important takeaway from the Forum was that ASF cannot be addressed in isolation and that global collaboration is therefore essential for tackling the disease. The event served to foster that global collaboration by allowing speakers to share their experiences and lessons learned in order to develop an effective approach to protecting the Americas region from the disease.
FAO’s participation in this event is part of its longer-term strategy to address the global challenges of ASF.