A joint mission of the European Commission, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and FAO called for immediate and rigorous control measures requiring substantial international assistance.
The mission reported that by mid-June 52 of 65 districts were suspected to be affected by African Swine Fever, more than 30 000 pigs died and a total of 22 000 pigs have been culled.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs. It causes fever and results in high pig mortality. African Swine Fever does not affect humans. It is a transboundary animal disease with the potential for wide international spread.
There is no vaccine against the disease; controlling animal movement and stamping out is the only remedy to avoid spillover of the disease to healthy animals, wildlife or even local ticks.
“The Republic of Georgia faces an exceptionally difficult situation,” the mission concluded. “Keeping pigs in open grazing, the wide distribution of infected pigs before the first confirmation of the disease, and the limited human and financial resources are difficult circumstances constraining an effective control campaign.”
A significant wild boar population will also complicate short- and long-term control of ASF. Aggressive control measures limiting the contact between domestic and wild pigs are essential in order to avoid that the virus becomes adapted to wild pigs.
“With rapid and appropriate control measures, it may be possible that confined pig farms and even some districts can be kept free of infection. However, without such interventions, there is a real risk that Georgia may lose most of its pig population to African Swine Fever in the coming months,” the mission stated.
Georgia has about half a million pigs, kept mainly in back yards and in small farms.
African Swine Fever may have entered Georgia from the port of Poti on the Black Sea and then spread eastwards. It can be assumed that pigs had access to contaminated waste from ships.
The mission stated that a national control campaign should – under current circumstances - avoid the depopulation of the entire national pig population. Every effort should be made to protect virus-free areas from infection and progressively eliminate the virus in affected areas.
The mission made the following recommendations:
- All pigs within infected herds and in contact herds must be culled;
- Carcasses must be burnt or buried deeply on site;
- The ban on pig movements and marketing should be continued and enforced;
- Pigs should be totally confined and should have no contacts with wild boar;
- Strict entry and exit controls between all infected and free areas should be continued and enforced;
- Vehicles and people entering and leaving farms should apply strict disinfection procedures;
- Pig owners should be compensated for their losses in order to increase compliance with control measures;
- Swill feeding should be strictly controlled;
- Analysis of clinical suspicion of disease should be followed up by national or international reference laboratory confirmation;
- The reporting of African Swine Fever, and methods for prevention, need to be improved through communication campaigns targeting farmers and the training of veterinarians.
To date, neighbouring countries have not reported outbreaks of African Swine Fever. However, due to the probably ongoing movement of pigs and pig products between Georgia and neighbouring countries, spread of the virus can not be excluded. Infected wild boar might also contribute to the spread. Countries that share a border with Georgia should be on high alert.
Pigs can acquire African Swine Fever by eating infected meat or tissues, by direct contact with an infected pig, and by contact with contaminated material and equipment, such as buckets, needles, clothing and vehicles. In Africa, the virus is also known to be transmitted by ticks.
ASF virus may remain viable for long periods in infected pig tissues, meat and processed pig products, which should not enter the food chain.
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