The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have called on the European Union (EU), Russia and the Ukraine to take urgent preventive measures against the outbreak of African Swine Fever in the Caucasus region.
According to the Rome-based FAO, African Swine Fever (ASF) risks spreading from Georgia, as the disease has become deeply entrenched in Georgia and also been reported in northern Armenia and near the capital Yerevan.
It is certain that the epidemic in Georgia is the source of the outbreaks in Armenia, FAO said.
“The spread of the African Swine Fever virus to the Caucasus region poses a very serious animal health risk and could lead to a dramatic situation,” FAO chief veterinary officer Joseph Domenech said in a statement.
“Without a more vigorous surveillance and disease control strategy the virus could become endemic in the Caucasus and could eventually make its way to other regions.
“The EU, Russia, the Ukraine and other countries have a serious problem on their doorsteps that needs to be urgently addressed,” he added.
The first case of African Swine Fever in the Caucasus was recorded in Georgia in June and has spread rapidly, affecting 52 of 65 districts while more than 68,000 pigs have died of the virus or been culled.
In Armenia, outbreaks have been reported since the end of August and it seems likely that the virus is spreading, the FAO said.
“If both countries do not control the virus, there is a real risk that they might lose most of their pig population,” Domenech warned.
ASF poses no danger to humans, but there are no vaccines or drugs available to prevent or control the infection, which can wipe out entire pig populations and has a serious impact on food security and livelihoods.
Killing infected animals or animals at risk and movement control are essential measures to contain the virus. The FAO said it is planning to provide training and equipment to Georgia and Armenia to help them increase surveillance.
In Europe, the disease is only endemic on the island of Sardinia.
FAO aims to strengthen veterinary services through training and the provision of equipment.
Public awareness campaigns are required to involve the public in disease control.
“The drastic reduction of veterinarians in Georgia, lack of transport at all levels, insufficient surveillance and monitoring programmes, poor bio-security and uncontrolled swill feeding are issues that need to be urgently addressed,” FAO veterinary expert Klaus Depner said.
â€¢ Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
â€¢ European Union
For the latest pig news, subscribe here