16 February 2011 - With the ongoing spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the Caucasus and the southern part of the Russian Federation, including also isolated outbreaks in the St. Petersburg area, a number of Eastern European countries consider themselves at immediate risk of disease introduction. For their part, European Union (EU) member countries are concerned the disease might reach EU territory if already affected and at-risk countries are incapable of handling outbreaks properly or if adequate contingency plans are not rapidly put in place. It is now widely acknowledged that ASF disease transmission dynamics in Eastern Europe warrants, among other things, the development of a platform of ongoing information exchange, given that this detrimental disease is considered to be a growing threat to regional swine production systems and global pig meat production.
The veterinary authorities of the Russian Federation have stated that the spread of ASF in the southern part of the country has unfortunately grown out of control and that the veterinary measures implemented were currently unable to get ahead of the spread. While it is true that remote, single outbreaks—like the one in St. Petersburg—could be better managed through coherent and coordinated actions, the required concerted approaches against ASF within the Russian Federation, as a large whole, pose a formidable challenge. In response, veterinary experts underscore the good quality of diagnostics tools that are already available and being implemented, not only within the EU but also in other countries, which could be feasibly and viably be tapped by the Russian Federation should urgent need arise.
There is a growing consensus among stakeholders that the Global Framework for the progressive control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs), a joint FAO/OIE initiative, in Europe could very well be the platform for the harmonization of activities addressing ASF in Eastern Europe. For this to occur effectively, a regular exchange of information is crucial. Moreover, intergovernmental officials believe that the political will to enlist ASF as a priority disease must come from the highest level.
Based on the evolving disease situation, the Animal Health Service (AGAH) at the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), urges veterinary authorities to widen the scope beyond Eastern Europe and, perhaps, to start looking at ASF in sub-Saharan Africa and potential threats to pig production in other regions, including Asia-Pacific.
More specifically, FAO advocates for comprehensive value-chain analysis of the pig sector in view that human behaviours have been identified as the main risk factor for ASF spread. Also, based on commonalities of mandates and interests, FAO and the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture are exploring potential future collaborations in this and other areas.
FAO of the UN is an institutional partner of the World Veterinary Year 2011.