FAO and OIE kickstart global initiative to stop spread of deadly pig disease

As African swine fever spreads globally, governments, industry and specialists come together to take action

Joint FAO-OIE press release

26 October, 2020, Rome/Paris - As African swine fever (ASF) marches swiftly across countries affecting food security and livelihoods of some of the world's most vulnerable populations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are calling on all nations and partners to join forces to keep this deadly pig disease at bay under a new initiative.

The Global Control of ASF Initiative, recently launched under the GF-TADs umbrella, supports actors at every level to coordinate and strengthen control measures to minimise the impact of this complex and challenging disease.

Bringing together governments, industry and specialists, FAO and OIE will present the Initiative for the first time on a global stage as part of a Call to Action event (26-30 October).

The spread of ASF shows no signs of slowing down. The contagious disease has led to the loss of over 7 million pigs in Asia alone, since sweeping into this region. More than 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe are currently affected and the Americas are trying to prevent incursion into their territory.

"Our goal is to prevent the spread - and ultimately eradicate - this disease, leveraging the latest science, best practices and international standards," said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his video message to the participants. "If not controlled, this disease will jeopardize progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals," he continued calling on all stakeholders to take action to stop the spread of ASF, promote animal health and welfare, and safeguard the livelihoods of farmers.

"Today, no country is safe from African swine fever," said OIE Director-General Monique Eloit. "The number of countries across the world reporting outbreaks to the OIE continues to grow. This corresponds to the biggest animal disease outbreak of our generation." She stressed the need for continued investment in veterinary services, and the effective implementation of international standards, particularly those related to biosecurity and surveillance, to bring ASF under global control.

The disease causes up to 100 percent fatality in wild and domestic pigs and there is no effective vaccine. Although not infectious to humans, pig production is critical for many economies, and to the food security and livelihoods of millions of people. The fatal disease continues to extend its reach, causing further damage in the socioeconomic fallout from COVID-19.

As part of a week-long online event, government representatives, veterinarians, and specialists from around the world, will share knowledge and experiences on tools, approaches and state of the art research. Coordinated actions as part of the Initiative will build resilience utilising practical guidance, appropriate to specific needs and contexts.

Call for action

ASF is a complex disease which survives in pork products and persists in the environment for long periods, making control and eradication very difficult. Cases in wild boar are also a concern not only for their potential implication in disease transmission, but also for biodiversity and wildlife management.

Global control of ASF cannot be achieved by one sector or one country alone.  Through a coordinated effort, all actors in the pig production chain joining the Global Control of ASF GF-TADs Initiative, can help to:

    • protect the livelihoods of vulnerable communities

    • safeguard animal health and welfare

    • contribute to stabilising the pig production sector as well as meat and feed prices in regional and international trade             and thus contribute to food security

     • and ensure people access to nutrition to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing.

As part of the Global Control of ASF GF-TADs Initiative, FAO and OIE call on Members and partners to:

  • Carry out national risk analysis and re-enforce risk management: including contingency planning, prevention, early detection, rapid response, and compensation policies to support industry recovery.
  • Maintain a high level of awareness on ASF risk mitigation among farmers, veterinarians, butchers, hunters, input suppliers and other value chain stakeholders.
  • Foster and support the implementation of good biosecurity practices, which are key to prevent further spread of ASF.
  • Re-enforce and maintain border inspection for prevention of disease spread between countries through illegal practices such as the smuggling of pork, pork products and live animals during travel and migration.
  • Finalise research, development and validation of potential vaccines against ASF as well as related vaccination strategy.
  • Support the improvement of laboratory diagnostics and rapid screening tools for ASF.
  • Develop a holistic approach to ASF control in wildlife - taking all pig-types into account.
  • Foster solidarity and cooperation between countries with varying levels of experience, resources, and capacity for ASF prevention and control.
  • Foster Public-Private-Partnership for investment in ASF risk mitigation and management.

Read more about what FAO and OIE, under the GF-TADs framework, are doing to help countries curb the spread of ASF.

FAO and OIE work in partnership to tackle a range of animal diseases which threaten food security and livelihoods, find out more about our work on Peste des Petit Ruminants and Foot and Mouth Disease

Photo: ©FAO/Sergei Gapon / FAO
A veterinarian prepares the reaction mixture in a laminar flow cabinet in a laboratory at the Belarusian State Veterinary Center in Minsk, as part of FAO project on emergency assistance to control the African Swine Fever outbreak in Belarus.