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Press Release 98/04


Rome, February 16 -- A serious outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) has been declared in Cape Verde, requiring urgent containment measures to prevent the disease from spreading to other countries in West Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

According to FAO animal health expert Kris Wojciechowski, who just returned from the country, AFS is widespread in most rural areas throughout the nine inhabited islands of Cape Verde. The country is made up of a total of 10 islands off the coast of Senegal. The death toll has risen sharply among the swine population on the islands, reaching 80 - 90 percent on the island of Maio and 70 - 80 percent on Fogo and in Sao Tiago.

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic pigs, characterized by mortality rates approaching 100 percent in initial widespread outbreaks. The virus is transmitted through contact with infected pigs, or pigs that have recovered from the disease and by eating garbage contaminated with urine, feces or by infected carcasses.

Pigs infected with AFS have a fever and the skin on the abdomen and the ears exhibits a red discoloration. The disease may also be characterized by coughing, diarrhea and dehydration. Once contracted, the disease lasts 6 to 12 days and almost always results in death.

ASF does not infect people, but eating infected pork or cured pork products can cause serious health problems, including infection with samonella bacterial.

There is no vaccine against ASF. The only defense against the spread of the disease is to destroy all the pigs in the infected area under sanitary conditions and quarantine pig farms in neighboring regions to prohibit the movement of pigs.

FAO's Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) has launched a number of initiatives to assist the Cape Verde government to eradicate the disease and to reinforce preventive measures in nine other West African countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Senegal. The initiative will need the support of donor countries and the international community.

Given that there is no vaccine against ASF, the measures recommended by FAO are essential sanitary measures," said Yves Cheneau, chief of FAO's animal health service.

"The sanitary slaughter of all animals infected with ASF and the implementation of a strict clinical and epidemiological surveillance system to track the disease are necessary. But, to succeed, the containment program needs to be accompanied by a solid and believable media campaign aimed at all the concerned parties, especially the pig farmers. In this regard, action by the mass media will be decisive," Cheneau said.

The movement and commerce in diseased pigs must be prohibited as well as the consumption of pork and pork products. Officials at ports and airports must be vigilant and halt all traffic in pork. The pigs must be confined to prevent the spread of the disease. Such measures are difficult to implement without the cooperation of pig farmers and rural communities.

"If the disease spreads throughout the country, almost all the swine population could perish. This would be a real catastrophe, because pork makes up half the meat produced by the country and is a basic element in the food security of the poor segments of the population. Pork is even cheaper than chicken," said Wojciechowski.

The cost of compensating farmers for slaughtering their pigs could reach $3.5 million, according to some estimates. However, Wojceichowski said that this does not take into account the socio-economic costs connected with the sudden drop in pork production.

Wojciechowski warned of the risk of ASF spreading across the African continent and even to other continents. Already, in the past, outbreaks occurred in Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The disease spread to Cote d'Ivoire in 1996, then to Benin, Nigeria and to Togo in 1992.

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Contact John Riddle at (396) 5705-3259, or [email protected] for further information.





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