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African Swine Fever (ASF)

The Disease

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious, generalized disease of pigs caused by an Iridovirus of family Asfarviridae that exhibits varying virulence between strains and is very hardy to physical and chemical inactivation. The agent can remain viable for long periods in blood, faeces and tissues. It can also multiply in its vectors. In view of this, the control of ASF is dependent on stamping out policy and strict quarantine enforcement. It most commonly appears in the acute form as a haemorrhagic fever. Subacute and chronic forms of the disease also exist. Mortality is usually close to 100 percent and pigs of all ages are affected.

Geographical Distribution

African swine fever (ASF) is now established beyond Africa, in the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. In the past, the virus was already detected outside Africa from the 1950s to the 1980s in Europe, the Caribbean and Brazil. The disease was effectively eradicated from outside of Africa with the exception of the Italian island of Sardinia, which remains endemic.

ASF is considered endemic in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, ASF dynamics remain variable from one sub-region to another. Certainly, the upsurge of ASF in many areas is driven by the tremendous growth of the pig sector seen in Africa, with some countries more than doubling their pig populations in less than a decade and the increased movement of people and products.

Since its introduction to the Caucasus in 2007, ASF quickly spread into Armenia and the Russian Federation. More recently, outbreaks have been reported in Ukraine and Belarus. The disease is now believed to be endemic in parts of the Russian Federation and the Caucasus.

The disease travels mainly through the non regulated movements of infected pork and pig products, although the transboundary spread by wild boar has also been documented. The recent developments in Eastern Europe indicate that a further geographic expansion of ASF is likely to occur, requiring increased prevention and vigilance to protect swine populations and the associated business and livelihoods. Any country with a pig production sector is at risk of the entrance of the disease.

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