African Swine Fever | Current information
For months African Swine Fever has been the centre of discussions among pig farmers. In Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, the number of infections has been rising recently and the first case has now been recorded in Germany. But why is African Swine Fever so dangerous, what are the consequences of an outbreak of the disease and how can I protect myself from it as a farmer? You will find all the information you need in this guide.
What is African Swine Fever (ASF)?
African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious and severe viral disease of wild and domestic pigs. It is one of the notifiable animal diseases, it is incurable and is usually fatal for the animals affected. A vaccine is not yet available, and the control of the spread can only be achieved by killing and destroying infected and suspected pigs. However, it poses no danger to humans or other domestic animals.
However, the following symptoms of the disease are often unspecific and can easily be confused with other ailments:
- High fever
- Feed refusal
- Mobility disorders
- Breathing problems and tiredness
- Bleeding (skin bleeding, nose bleeding, bloody diarrhoea)
- Discolouration of the skin (red/blue)
Usually several animals are affected simultaneously, resulting in sudden deaths and high losses. Older animals (sows, fattening pigs) are often affected first.
ASF is transmitted either through direct contact with infected animals or through indirect contact with contaminated objects, such as vehicles, equipment or shoes. The (illegal) feeding of unheated pork products is also a possible source of infection. Infection via contaminated feed is considered highly unlikely. Due to the extraordinarily high survival time and resistance of the virus to environmental influences, the virus has persisted in affected regions and continues to spread. The speed of propagation through direct animal contact between wild pigs is slow but steady due to the rapid death of the affected animals. The main risk for a wide spread of ASF is posed by transport and travel to and from Eastern Europe, because of the risk of importing and careless disposal of contaminated food waste, such as sausages.
No, African Swine Fever is not contagious for humans and other animal species.
In the African countries of origin, the virus infection is transmitted by the soft tick, but this does not occur in our part of the world. In particular, however, the pathogen spreads via direct animal contact through secretions, blood or semen, the ingestion of infected material or indirectly via contaminated tools or transport vehicles.
In December 2007, ASF was registered for the first time in Georgia and also spread to the neighbouring countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. In 2012 there were cases in Ukraine and Belarus, and in 2014 African Swine Fever reached Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In the Czech Republic, the first case was registered on 27 June 2017. Even in Belgium, cases of ASF have been detected in feral pigs since 2018. The fact that African Swine Fever can remain in the above-mentioned states for so long and even spread further is due to local pig farming practices in the affected countries – especially in the case of widespread backyard farming, which is associated with very low biosecurity.
What is the current situation regarding African Swine Fever?
At present, new cases of ASF are reported almost daily in Poland, both in domestic and wild pigs, so that by the end of August 2020 more cases came to light than in the whole previous year. In total, more than 43,000 animals have had to be culled so far. This makes Poland as well as Romania the countries currently most affected by the pandemic in the EU. Although the main focus of the epidemic is in the east of Poland, cases have also occurred near the border with Germany (between 10-100 km). It was only a question of time until the first ASF case occurred in Germany as well. On 10/09/2020, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute confirmed the infection in a dead wild pig in the Spree-Neisse district in Brandenburg.
You can follow the current development of the spread of the disease on the homepage of the Friedrich Loeffler Institute. There the latest figures and a current General map for the dissemination of known cases of ASF.
What are the consequences of an outbreak of African Swine Fever in Germany?
The procedure to be followed in the event of a confirmed outbreak of African Swine Fever in Germany is laid down in the Swine Fever Guidelines. The subsequent measures to be taken will depend on whether the wild pig is infected or whether the ASF has broken out in a domestic pig population.
Three protection zones will be established around the site, the aim of which is to find infected animals and not to drive them away, thus stopping the spread of the disease.
||High risk area||Endangered area||Buffer zone|
The measures taken can be lifted 6 months after the last known case at the earliest!
If your business is in an at-risk area, you must be prepared for considerable restrictions. Due to the limited transport, there may be bottlenecks in the barn area and marketing difficulties.
If ASF spreads to wild pigs in Germany, all pig farmers will be affected equally. The country will lose its “ASF-free” status, which means that pork exports to third countries outside the EU will be no longer possible. The status “ASP-free” can be regained by the country at least two years after the last outbreak of the disease.
The measures are significantly tightened if an infection occurs in the domestic pig population, which has very far-reaching consequences for affected farms.
The measures taken can be lifted at least 40 days after cleaning and disinfection of your farm, as well as a negative result of pathogen testing at the barn.
|Protection zone||Restricted area||Observation area|
What security measures can farmers take to prevent an outbreak?
Due to the far-reaching consequences, prophylaxis is of essential importance. Here, operational biosecurity is the decisive factor. If you consistently implement the pig husbandry hygiene guidelines, you are already doing most things right. When it comes to the hygiene of the business, the principle of more is always better always applies! The most important measures for protection against ASF are the following:
- Complete shielding of your stock against the intrusion of wild population (no direct contact between domestic and wild pigs, wild pig-proof feed and bedding storage)
- If possible, do not let any foreign vehicles (including feed suppliers) onto the farm.
- The number of people in direct contact with your animals should be kept to a minimum – keep a visitor record!
- Train external staff in hygiene measures.
- Strict black and white separation via a hygiene sluice – separate protective clothing and equipment for each barn unit if possible!
- Animal food does not belong in the pig barn! Make sure that your employees, especially Eastern European ones, are informed of this.
- When buying in animals, pay attention to the health status of the farms and only integrate the bought-in animals into the herd after a quarantine period.
When you own livestock, you must take particular care if you also hunt wild animals. Here it is important to be absolutely meticulous in observing the hygiene measures and separating hunting and livestock care. If possible, avoid bringing dead wild boars to the farm and keep your dog away from your pigs!
In order to find and eliminate possible gaps in the operational safety concept, the Friedrich Loeffler Institute offers a comprehensive Checklist to prevent the introduction of ASF.
If you still suspect that your animals may have become infected with the ASF virus despite observing all safety measures and consistently implementing your hygiene concept, do not hesitate to consult your farm veterinarian. Early detection of the disease helps to contain the epidemic quickly and effectively and thus prevent even greater economic damage.
Important information for farmers
What security measures does JOSERA take?
As a professional partner of the agricultural industry, we at JOSERA are prepared for all eventualities and have developed a plan of action for a possible epidemic. The aim is to prevent the virus from spreading and to be able to continue supplying you with our products safely.
Our prevention plan contains concrete rules of conduct for our wholesalers, drivers and field staff to enable safe company visits and deliveries. In particular, this includes providing our employees with suitable protective equipment and disinfectants for vehicle disinfection on site, as well as a stationary disinfection facility for transport vehicles on our premises.
We follow the ASF developments closely and our highest priority is to provide you with safe care even in an emergency!
African Swine Fever has now arrived in Germany and poses further challenges for the entire pig industry. As a farmer, it is your duty to be informed of the problem and be prepared for everything. At this point we stand by you as a reliable partner.
Do you have further questions about African Swine Fever? Then write to us! We will be happy to help you!