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Even stray cats are not safe due to ASF in Ukraine

Even stray cats and dogs are having a hard time as a consequence of ongoing African Swine Fever outbreaks in Ukraine. Authorities in cities in southern Ukraine recently decided to tackle the problem of stray cats and dogs in an attempt to stop further virus spread. The decision led to a series of protest rallies.

Since the beginning of 2018, Ukraine has registered 126 ASF outbreaks, according to the country’s State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service. This is comparable to last year, as in the total of 2017, Ukraine reported 163 outbreaks.

Can other animals than ticks and pigs mechanically transmit ASF? Read Dr Richard French’ opinion at Leman China

Following several outbreaks late August, the sanitary agency of the city Kherson, in southern Ukraine, issued a statement “to eliminate all wild animals in the city, as they might be carriers of the virus”.

Almost immediately, the local authorities started catching stray cats and dogs right on the streets of Kherson. The same campaign was reportedly also launched in the Mykolaiv city.

A stray kitten in a city. According to Ukrainian city authorities, they might be able to spread virus particles. Photo: 123RF
A stray kitten in a city. According to Ukrainian city authorities, they might be able to spread virus particles. Photo: 123RF

A state of quarantine

Local ecologists initially claimed there was a misunderstanding, as the injunction would have applied to wild boars, not all wild animals. However, soon it turned out that that was not the case.

Speaking to the local news outlet Politeka, Marina Malakhova, chairman of Kherson sanitary service, explained that it had been general Ukrainian guidelines of fighting against ASF in Ukraine that had convinced the local authorities to start a campaign against stray cats and dogs. She explained that in accordance to those guidelines, all wild animals within the quarantine territory must be eliminated.

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In September, 3 ASF outbreaks were registered within the city limits of Kherson, so almost the entire city had become a quarantine zone, Ms Malakhova said.

Vladimir Mikolayenko, mayor of Kherson eventually stated at a press conference that the campaign was eventually cancelled after ecologist pressure. He also added that all caught animals were eventually released.

ASF in finished products

The developments show, however, that concerns about the further spread of ASF are growing in Ukraine. This is happening against a background several meat processing plants attempting to use meat of infected pigs for manufacturing finished products. That news was shared by law enforcement agencies.

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Speaking at a press conference in Kiev, Volodimir Lapa, chairman of the State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service said “there were concerns over the extremely high distribution of the virus in finished pork products in Ukraine”.

One of the latest investigations, conducted in 12 Ukrainian regions, showed no presence of the virus on the grocery shelves, so the actual results were a way better than expected, according to Mr Lapa. He added that it didn’t mean that there would not be any infected products at all. For that reason, the monitoring will be conducted on a regular basis.

Impact on pig prices

The country’s pig population in Ukraine has been shrinking since the 1st ASF outbreak was registered in the country in 2014. As of August 1 there were 6.5 million pigs in Ukraine, 5% down compared to the same date of the previous year, according to official statistics.

What does Ukraine’s pig industry look like?

In 2017, the average price for pork in Ukraine jumped by 28% to 101 hryvnia ($ 3.56), compared to 2016, according to calculations by the Ukraine Association of Retail Chain Suppliers. This year the further increase in prices is expected to have risen between 15% and 25%.