As further cases of African swine fever (ASF) are detected in Rome as well as in the northwestern regions, authorities in Italy are urged to tackle the spread of the virus.
After more cases of African swine fever (ASF) were confirmed in wild boar in the Rome area, local authorities are taking new measures to control the disease.
Among those announced last week was an extension of the restricted area, reported ANSA.
From the original infection in a park in the area of the Italian capital city, the number of cases had risen to 10 by May 16. This is according to the latest official report to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
With this development, the European Union urged Italian authorities to establish an infected zone, according to ANSA. Furthermore, all measures must be employed to prevent potentially infected animals from leaving that zone. An official in the health department said that culling of the wild boar in the infected area was under consideration.
On May 4, the first wild boar to test positive for the ASF virus in the Lazio region was found in the Insugherata nature park near Rome.
Since January, Italy’s animal health agency has reported ASF among the wild boar in two provinces in the northwest of the country. According to the latest OIE notifications, 123 animals had tested positive for the virus (as of May 16). All have been found in Alessandria in the Piedmont region or in Genova province in Liguria.
ASF controls urged in Italy
A proposal to eliminate the wild boar population in the infected area of Rome has met with strong opposition, reports the Rome edition of Corriere della Sera.
Animal rights campaigners oppose this extension to the hunting season when human health is not at risk from the virus. Furthermore, they say, the disturbance of the wild animals and use of dogs could actually spread the infection further.
World renowned virologist Professor Ilaria Capua has warned of the potential threat of ASF to the Italian pig sector. There is no safe and effective vaccine available to protect domestic pigs, she said, reported Corriere. If the disease were to enter commercial or backyard herds, it could explode among this susceptible population. Among the consequences would be a lockdown of the whole pork supply chain in Italy, with exports halted, and jobs and livelihoods lost, she warned.
Capua called for an investigation into any links between the outbreaks in the three Italian regions affected so far.
Europe’s wild boar outbreaks approach 3,500
So far this year, 3,493 ASF outbreaks among wild boar have occurred in Europe. This is according to the Animal Disease Information Notification System operated by the European Commission (EC; as of May 14). One or more cases have been detected in 14 countries.
So far recording the most outbreaks in 2022 has been Poland (1,069), followed by Germany (795), Hungary (301), Slovakia (293), Romania (290) and Bulgaria (236). As well as these countries and Italy, Latvia and Lithuania also registered new cases through this system over the previous two weeks.
During the whole of 2021, 12 countries registered with the EC one or more ASF outbreaks in wild boar — a total of 12,150 outbreaks.
Latest report from Poland’s chief veterinary office confirms a further 58 ASF outbreaks involving 76 wild boar. The cases were suspected in the period April 20 to May 11. They bring to 978 the nation’s total cases in wild boar so far this year.
Not covered by the EC report is Russia. In the Samara region, four wild boar have tested positive for the ASF virus.
According to the OIE notification, they were found in this Volga federal district region at the start of May. Although the infection was reported in a backyard herd in January, these are the first infections among Samara’s wild population this year.
Germany seeks hunters’ view on ASF control
In Germany, ASF was first detected in September 2020. Since then, 3,893 wild boar have tested positive for the ASF virus (as of May 20), according to national veterinary agency, the Friedrich-Loeffler Institute (FLI). This is an increase of 27 over the previous two-week period.
All the country’s cases in wild boar so far have been confined to the three eastern states of Brandenburg, Saxony, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. Within those states, infected animals have been found in seven, three and one districts, respectively.
As new cases continue to be detected, FLI reports that hunters across the country are invited to share their opinions, ideas and concerns about ASF control in a new survey.
ASF situation among Europe’s domestic pigs
As of May 14, eight countries had officially confirmed one or more ASF outbreaks among swine so far this year. This is according to the EC’s notification system.
By that date, the region’s outbreaks in commercial and backyard pigs had reached 168 for the year. Of this total, 150 occurred in Romania. In Serbia, 11 outbreaks in swine have been registered in 2022 – most recently on February 10.
For comparison, 11 nations notified the EC of a total of 1,874 outbreaks during the whole of 2021. Worst affected last year too was Romania, which accounted for 1,676 of the total.
Latest reports to the OIE from the Romanian animal health agency outline a further eight ASF outbreaks in domestic pigs. Involving a total of 60 animals, all were in backyard herds.
View our continuing coverage of the global African swine fever situation.