Health officials 'very worried' as African swine fever spreads in Europe and Asia

Global health officials are preparing for African swine fever, which has been spreading in pigs across borde...

Posted: Oct 2, 2018 12:39 PM
Updated: Oct 2, 2018 12:39 PM

Global health officials are preparing for African swine fever, which has been spreading in pigs across borders since 2014, reaching Western Europe last week.

Humans are suspected to have caused the recent spread to Belgium, where eight cases were confirmed, as of September 25, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Agriculture

Agriculture, forestry, and commercial fishing

Animal farming and livestock

Animals

Asia

Biological and chemical weapons

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

China

Communicable disease control

Consumer products

Continents and regions

Diseases and disorders

East Asia

Epidemics and outbreaks

Europe

European Union

Food and beverage industry

Food and drink

Food production industry

Food products

Government organizations - Intl

Health and medical

Infectious diseases

Kinds of foods and beverages

Life forms

Livestock

Livestock diseases

Mammals

Meat products

Microscopic life

Military

Military weapons

Pigs

Pork

Public health

Vaccination and immunization

Viruses

Weapons and arms

Weapons of mass destruction

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government departments and authorities

Health departments

Public health administration

Eastern Europe

Western Europe

Belgium

International relations

International relations and national security

Territorial and national borders

The most recent cases, however, were reported September 25 in a Chinese slaughterhouse in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, according to the organization. There have been 29 outbreaks in China since the first case was reported August 3. China has culled nearly 40,000 pigs in response, according to the the organization's database.

The virus reached China this summer and arrived in Western Europe for the first time in September in a separate simultaneous outbreak, leaving officials worried.

As of Friday, Belgium had culled 4,000 domestic pigs from the Étalle region, according to the country's national federation of slaughterhouses, cutting plants and wholesalers for pork. Thirteen countries have banned some sort of pork imports from Belgium: Taiwan, South Korea, Serbia, Singapore, China, Belarus, Australia, Japan, Philippines, Mexico, Uruguay, Malaysia and India.

"An outbreak of African swine fever is a very serious event," said Matthew Stone, the World Organisation for Animal Health's deputy director general for international standards and science. "The authorities of countries affected are under extraordinary pressure."

Globally, more than 361,000 infected wild boars and domestic pigs have been reported to the organization, with more than 119,000 deaths in 2018.

The disease is characterized by pigs developing hemorrhaging lesions on their skin and internal organs. All cases can result in death within 10 days of infection, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

Financial consequences of an outbreak are substantial. Once the virus has been detected on a pig farm, the entire population must be culled.

Pork exports make up 8.5% of the European Union's total agricultural industry and 62% of the bloc's total meat exports, according to a 2016 US Department of Agriculture report.

Cross-border spread

Eastern Europe has witnessed several outbreaks of the virus over the summer, with Romania most affected.

The first case was reported in January near the Ukrainian border, and Romania has reported over 900 outbreaks since, mostly among backyard farm animals. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Romania have reported over 355,000 cases between them since 2014.

African swine fever, which affects only wild boars, warthogs, bush pigs and domestic pigs, is endemic in sub-Saharan and West Africa and was first detected in Kenya in 1921. Scientists agree that there are no health risks to humans, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The disease is transmitted among pigs by direct contact with infected animals, their carcasses and bodily fluids or by consuming contaminated meat, usually discarded by humans, according to Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Union commissioner for health and food safety. Any objects from infected zones, such as boot soles or tires, can also carry the virus as they may transfer sources like blood, tissues, secretions and excretions of dead or sick animals, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

The virus first entered Eurasia in 2007g in Georgia via wild boar imported from Africa, said Andriukaitis, who chaired a meeting September 17 with Belgian ministers to discuss the handling of cases found in Belgium.

"The first outbreak in Georgia in 2007 was a full disaster. It fully destroyed pork production and led to a broad contamination," he said. After Georgia, the virus spread to Russia, Moldova and Belarus and, in 2014, entered the European Union via Poland and the Baltic states.

Now, the virus has reached Belgium, with ongoing outbreaks in Ukraine's Kiev region, resulting in the killing of 912 pigs. Nineteen new outbreaks were also recorded in Romania, mainly on backyard farms and national parks.

The virus shows no sign of slowing.

Human spread

Humans were the "most likely route of infection" for the boars in Belgium last week, believes Linda Dixon, researcher in genomics of African swine fever at the Pirbright Institute in the UK.

Since the infected pigs were found in a forest area, more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from any infected territories, she suspects that people consumed infected meat products and then left them in the forest where wild boars ate them.

There are no risks associated with eating infected meat, Dixon said.

In the rest of Europe the main factor for spread has been wild boar movements, illegal pig and pork meat trading and the movement of people and vehicles between countries, according to Andriukaitis.

Climate change and "absolutely different weather conditions" have helped African swine fever spread, he said, explaining that the virus is a very heat- and cold-resistant one.

Thousands infected in China

China has also been hit hard.

As of September 25, eight provinces were also reporting cases of African swine fever thousands of kilometers apart, with 2, 283 pigs infected. The country has seen 29 outbreaks, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health's database.

China is one of the world's largest producers and consumers of pork products, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Stone believes that the movement of live pigs or pig meat has been "instrumental in both initiation but also propagation" of the virus in China.

Dirk Pfeiffer, chair professor at City University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in Hong Kong, believes that the wide geographical spread is due to the "extensive live pig trade network in China."

"Food waste is being widely fed to domestic pigs, which if contaminated with the virus, will greatly facilitate spread."

Where there is "significant illegal trade in live pigs, pork or food waste for feeding pigs," it becomes "virtually impossible" to find the source of the virus, Pfeiffer added.

But investigations into how the virus was introduced are vital to prevent further spread.

China is undertaking standard procedures such as a movement ban of pigs and pork products from affected to unaffected provinces and culling on at-risk farms. "Forward and backward" tracing is also ongoing to identify the source of the virus and which other areas could have undetected infections spreading. The feeding of pig swill (food waste) has also been banned, Pfeiffer said.

However, given the size of the country and the number of outbreaks, Pfeffer believes there is a need for more trained veterinary staff who are familiar with the virus.

Given the number of countries now affected, preparedness programs, such as awareness campaigns warning people not to bring meat products from infected areas, are ongoing in most countries, Dixon said.

Schengen struggles

"Europe is very worried about further spread," Dixon said, with the large number of wild boars that roam freely being a primary concern, aided by the Schengen zone that allows Europeans to travel between 26 countries without any border checks.

Within the free movement zone, seven countries have reported outbreaks: Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Ways to keep wild boars from spreading the virus must include an understanding of the animal's movement, Stone said.

In summer 2017, the Czech Republic managed an outbreak of the deadly virus in its wild boar population by early prevention methods like targeted hunting, increased biosecurity, awareness campaigns and training of local people.

Other cases of African swine fever, like a 1980s outbreak in Spain, were also eliminated thanks to a reduction in free-range pig farming in the south of the country. But today's conditions make containing the virus harder.

"Now, we have different circumstances because of the single market, free movement of goods, the Schengen area and the different legal environments," Andriukaitis said.

Rest of Europe builds defense

The European Union has laid out contingency plans for dealing with African swine fever, including hunting bans in affected areas, movement controls, surveillance, ensuring high levels of biosecurity in all pig holdings, fighting illegal trade in meat or pig products and raising awareness in farmers and the local population.

In order to prevent spread of the virus to unaffected countries, Germany issued a decree allowing for hunting of wild boar populations during the entire year and has rehearsed response tactics in the case of an African swine fever outbreak. Denmark has approved plans for a fence along its border with Germany to stop wild boar movements between the countries as a precaution.

Andriukaitis has "doubts" about using a fence between countries as a prevention strategy because it wouldn't stop movement by humans or vehicles, which can still transmit the virus.w

The next hope is a vaccine.

African swine fever is a highly contagious DNA virus, the UK's Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said.

The European Union issued a research grant in 2018 for the development of an African swine fever vaccine in its Horizon 2020 program, the biggest EU research and innovation program.

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 80°
Robinson
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 79°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 80°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 74°
Casey
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 80°
Brazil
Few Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 80°
Marshall
Few Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 80°
Sunny and warm!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

Food vendors at Summer Fest take extra precautions to keep you safe

Image

Execution day, protesting information

Image

Execution day, a live look hours before the execution

Image

Monday: Mostly sunny with average temperatures. High: 86°

Image

Federal Executions Resuming

Image

TH Women's City Golf Championship

Image

Sunday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Saturday Morning Forecast Update

Image

Ryan Lieberman

Image

Zoe Stewart

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 155048

Reported Deaths: 7388
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook955574725
Lake10378428
DuPage9719486
Kane8107281
Will7278326
Winnebago3169106
St. Clair2304144
McHenry2266102
Kankakee143166
Madison119870
Rock Island119430
Unassigned1185201
Kendall106323
Champaign104017
Peoria66630
DeKalb64220
Boone63721
Sangamon53133
Jackson35619
McLean32215
Randolph3157
Ogle3144
Stephenson2856
LaSalle25917
Macon25322
Clinton24616
Union21219
Whiteside21215
Grundy1945
Coles19117
Iroquois1755
Tazewell1758
Knox1700
Adams1691
Williamson1614
Monroe15913
Warren1490
Cass1409
Morgan1344
Henry1161
Jefferson11417
McDonough10815
Lee1072
Vermilion892
Pulaski840
Marion770
Montgomery741
Macoupin693
Douglas610
Perry611
Jo Daviess551
Livingston552
Christian514
Woodford482
Jasper477
Franklin460
Jersey431
Ford421
Clark410
Bureau372
Menard320
Effingham311
Cumberland290
Mercer290
Johnson260
Alexander250
Washington250
Fayette243
Mason240
Moultrie240
Wabash230
Bond222
Carroll212
Hancock211
Logan210
Piatt210
Crawford200
Shelby201
Edgar190
Wayne191
De Witt180
Saline170
Fulton160
Massac160
Schuyler130
Lawrence120
Marshall120
Brown100
White100
Greene90
Richland90
Henderson80
Hamilton70
Pike70
Gallatin60
Stark60
Clay50
Edwards50
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10
Out of IL00

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 51612

Reported Deaths: 2760
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion12074693
Lake5650249
Elkhart361860
Allen2952134
St. Joseph214869
Hamilton1708101
Cass16459
Hendricks1466100
Johnson1345118
Porter84038
Tippecanoe7799
Vanderburgh7686
Clark71144
Madison67864
LaPorte62328
Howard60758
Bartholomew60145
Kosciusko5824
Marshall5579
Noble52028
Boone49144
LaGrange48610
Jackson4783
Delaware47552
Hancock46836
Shelby45925
Floyd41444
Monroe34828
Morgan34531
Grant32226
Dubois3096
Montgomery29820
Henry29618
Clinton2903
White27610
Dearborn26523
Warrick26129
Vigo2588
Decatur25632
Lawrence25225
Harrison21822
Greene19632
Miami1942
Jennings17912
Putnam1738
DeKalb1694
Scott1659
Wayne1586
Daviess15117
Perry14910
Steuben1382
Orange13723
Jasper1362
Ripley1347
Franklin1288
Gibson1242
Wabash1163
Carroll1142
Starke1083
Whitley1076
Fayette1067
Newton10110
Huntington942
Jefferson872
Wells821
Randolph804
Fulton731
Jay720
Knox710
Washington681
Pulaski661
Clay645
Rush623
Posey610
Spencer571
Owen521
Benton510
Sullivan501
Adams491
Brown431
Blackford402
Fountain362
Crawford330
Switzerland320
Tipton321
Parke270
Martin260
Ohio230
Vermillion200
Warren151
Union140
Pike120
Unassigned0193