Animal disease outbreaks: Swine fever declines in EU pigs, Brazil declares avian flu emergency
23 May 2023 --- EU cases of African swine fever in pigs fell significantly in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to a new report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). But the organization is warning that farmers must remain vigilant and report suspicious cases.
Meanwhile, Brazil has announced a six-month animal health emergency after several cases of avian flu were detected in wild birds.
Brazil is reportedly the world’s largest exporter of chicken meat, with annual sales of around US$10 billion. However, authorities say that new cases of the virus have not yet been detected in the main production areas in the country’s south.
The EFSA recently reported that bird flu is still spreading and that poultry infection rates may increase in the coming months, although the virus poses little risk to public health.
In the UK, mandatory housing measures were lifted on birds on April 18 (in England and Wales), allowing farmers to market eggs laid by hens as “free-range” again.
In China, experts have warned that the proliferation of high-rise pig farms could increase the risk of zoonotic diseases. According to the American Society for Microbiology, it is estimated that around 225 million pigs in China died or were culled after the outbreak of African swine fever in 2018.
Swine fever: Vigilance required
In 2022, African swine fever outbreaks among domestic pigs in the EU decreased by 79% compared to 2021. The decrease was particularly marked in Romania, Poland and Bulgaria.
However, Lithuania registered a slight increase due to a cluster of outbreaks notified in the summer in the southwestern part of the country.
“Over the last decade, African swine fever has had a dramatic impact on the pig farming sector in the EU and continues to disrupt local and regional economies,” says Bernhard Url, EFSA’s executive director.
“While our latest report shows encouraging signs that efforts to halt the spread of the virus may be taking effect, the picture across the EU is by no means universally positive, and we must remain vigilant. Farmers, hunters and vets have a particularly important role to play in reporting suspicious cases.”
Eight EU countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia) and four non-EU neighboring countries (Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine) reported African swine fever outbreaks in domestic pigs.
Romania was the most affected EU country, with 327 outbreaks, representing 87% of the total EU outbreaks.
Serbia was the most affected non-EU country of those included in the report, with 107 outbreaks. African swine fever was notified for the first time in North Macedonia.
Regarding wild boar, 40% fewer cases were reported in the EU during 2022 compared to 2021. This is the first decrease in African swine fever cases in wild boar in the area since its introduction in 2014.
Eleven EU member states (Czechia, Estonia and Hungary, in addition to the member states with outbreaks among domestic pigs) and four non-EU countries (Moldova, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine) notified African swine fever cases in wild boar.
StopASF campaign extended
In further developments, the EFSA is extending its StopASF campaign in 2023 to support the continuing efforts to control the spread of the virus.
The campaign raises awareness among farmers, hunters and veterinarians in the EU and surrounding countries about how to detect, prevent and report African swine fever.
Now in its fourth year, the campaign relies on the assistance of local farmers’ groups. It is run in partnership with local authorities in 18 countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia.
By Joshua Poole
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