African Swine Fever: Deadly Pig Virus Has Arrived in Germany

ASF, which originated in Africa has spread to Eastern European and Asian countries over the last two years

Germany reported its first confirmed case of a deadly pig disease, African Swine Fever (ASF), to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The source of the infection is not known, but German officials confirmed that the virus in a decomposed carcass of an infected dead wild boar was found in the German state of Brandenburg.

As per the reports, the officials have imposed a quarantine of 15-km around the area where the dead animal—female wild boar—was found. They are also searching for other dead animals with suspected virus infection. According to an animal disease alert filed with the OIE, the government of Germany has imposed movement restrictions on farm animals.

Officials in Germany—European Union's top pork producer and a key supplier to China—have been training dogs to sniff dead wild boar, and stockpiling electric fences along the eastern border to prevent the disease from spreading.

Deadly Pig Disease REUTERS

African Swine Fever

As per OIE, ASF is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of domestic and wild pigs that may result in serious economic and production losses. The disease, caused by a large DNA virus of the Asfarviridae family, also infects ticks of the genus Ornithodoros.

The epidemiology of ASF is complex and the spread of the viral disease depends on the environment, types of pig production systems, the presence or absence of competent tick vectors, human behavior, and the presence/absence of wild pigs. The routes of the transmission can include:

  • Direct contact with infected domestic or wild pigs
  • Indirect contact, through ingestion of contaminated material, such as food waste and garbage
  • Contaminated fomites or biological vectors (soft ticks of the genus Ornithodoros) were present

This disease, which emerged in Africa first, has spread to Eastern European and Asian countries over the last two years. Currently, there is no vaccine available against the disease. The mortality rates in a swineherd can be as high as 100 percent, while an infected animal can die due to ASF within two to 10 days. However, as per OIE, this virus is not deadly or harmful to humans and it also doesn't represent a food safety risk.

Pig Pixabay

ASF Outbreak

Reports said that European government agencies, including U.K. agencies, reported outbreaks of ASF in domestic pigs and wild boar populations in countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Kaliningrad, and Poland which shares a border with Germany.

In 2018, the first ASF outbreak occurred in China's Shenyang city, and in response to the outbreak, the Chinese government implemented control measures, such as movement control inside the country, surveillance outside containment zones, screening, quarantine, destruction of animal products, disposal of carcasses, by-products, and waste, stamping out control of wildlife reservoirs, and disinfection.

At this time when Germany is fighting the Coronavirus pandemic with 258,851 cases and over 9,000 deaths as of September 11, the recent finding of ASF is a setback for the country. However, Julia Kloeckner, Germany's Agriculture Minister said authorities will be imposing measures to prevent a possible spread of ASF from the Spree-Neisse region near the Polish border where the boar was found Wednesday, September 9.

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