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African swine fever virus detection in pork sparks concern

While two countries have announced that the African swine fever (ASF) virus has been detected in illegally imported pork products, new outbreaks of the disease continue to be reported in domestic pigs in China and Romania, as well as for the first time in Mongolia.

Photo by Andrea Gantz

While two countries have announced that the African swine fever (ASF) virus has been detected in illegally imported pork products, new outbreaks of the disease continue to be reported in domestic pigs in China and Romania, as well as for the first time in Mongolia.

Mongolia’s animal health agency has reported the country’s first ever ASF outbreak. The initial cases were in a backyard pig herd in the province of Bulgan in early January, and these were soon followed by a further four outbreaks in other small herds of domestic animals in three other regions. Based on official reports from the agriculture ministry to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), direct losses through mortality and culling have exceeded 600 animals.

With ASF cases occurring across much of China since August 2018, concerns are growing for the pork supply ahead of the forthcoming holiday season.

Vice Premier Hu Chunhua recently described the disease situation in the country as “complicated and grave,” reports Xinhua. He urged greater supervision of pig farms, slaughterhouses, and transport links to ensure that control measures are properly implemented.

A backyard herd in Yinchuan district has become the first to be affected by ASF in the central Chinese province of Ningxia, according to the latest official report from the Ministry of Agriculture to the OIE. Source of the infection remains unknown.

There has also been a second confirmed outbreak in Gansu, with 190 backyard pigs lost to the disease through mortality or culling in the district of Langzhou.

After a period without detection of the ASF virus, China’s officials have informed OIE that the disease situation has been “resolved” in Shanghai and in the provinces of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Tianjin. Restrictions imposed there after previous outbreaks have been lifted. While investigations into the source of infection in these regions were generally inconclusive, swill feeding has been identified as the cause of the cases in Hubei and Hunan, which experienced four and seven outbreaks, respectively.

ASF detected in smuggled pork products, pig carcass

ASF virus has been detected in pork products seized by border control forces in Australia and Thailand. Neither country has reported any sign of the disease in their respective pig populations.

Six pork products out of 152 tested in Australia were contaminated with ASF virus, according to the agriculture ministry. In Thailand, the number of seized pig meat samples testing positive for the ASF virus has reached nine, reports Bangkok Post. These latest positive tests were conducted on salami and sausages confiscated from a passenger arriving from Chengdu in China.

A second pig carcass found on a beach in Taiwan has tested positive for ASF, reports Taiwan News. Local experts consider it most likely the carcass drifted onto Matsu island from the nearby Chinese province of Fujian, where cases of the disease have been registered.

More wild boar test positive for ASF in Europe

During the past week, the national veterinary authorities in Belgium, Latvia and Romania have informed the OIE about new outbreaks of ASF in their respective wild boar populations.

Latvia’s agriculture ministry has confirmed the deaths of 65 wild boar at locations across much of the country since the start of this month.

During the second week of January, a further 39 wild boar found dead in Belgium tested positive for the ASF virus. All the cases were in the province of Luxembourg, where all previous outbreaks have occurred.

Romania’s national veterinary authority has declared the ASF situation to be “resolved” in two series of outbreaks — in Satu Mare in the northwest and Maramures in the north.

However, new outbreaks continue to be confirmed by Romania to the OIE. Latest reports outline the deaths from ASF of wild boar in counties in the north and south of the country, including Satu Mare.

There were also nine confirmed outbreaks of the disease in small backyard herds in the northwestern county of Bihor as well as Braila, Olt and Teleorman in the south. A total of 168 domestic pigs were lost to the disease through mortality or culling in these outbreaks.

In a recent review of the ASF situation in Europe, the International Disease Monitoring group at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom has highlighted a general decline in the number of new cases of ASF in domestic pigs in the region, while the trend is upward among the wild boar population.

A total of 1,183 ASF outbreaks in domestic pigs in Europe were recorded between July and December 2018, according to the review. Of these, 966 of the outbreaks were in Romania, with others in Poland (67), Ukraine (58), Lithuania (31), Russia (30), Moldova (23), Latvia (seven) and Bulgaria (one).

Over the same period, there were 2,338 outbreaks of the disease in wild boar in 10 countries. The list excludes Belgium, where outbreaks may have begun after the review was completed.

ASF returns to Uganda

Farmers in the Masaka district of Uganda are reported to be on alert after new outbreaks of ASF, reports Daily Monitor. Extent of the outbreaks is uncertain, but a local veterinary officer said scores of pigs have died. Pig keepers are being urged to take measures to prevent further spread of the infection.

Masaka is the country’s leading pig-producing area, and ASF resulted in the death of hundreds of pigs there in 2015 and 2017.

View our continuing coverage of the African swine fever outbreak.

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