Credit Photo Illustration by Simona Ivana

By Simona Ivana / Sept. 8, 2018

African Swine Fever (ASF) in Romania

African Swine Fever (ASF) is an infectious disease of swine notifiable in the European Union (EU) and to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) is the causative agent of the disease. It is a large, double-stranded DNA virus with a linear genome, which replicates in the cytoplasm of infected cells.

ASFV is an example of an ”emerging infectious disease”. It represents the hitherto sole member of the family Asfarviridae.

ASF is an economically important infectious disease of swine which causes mortality rates of up to 100% in domestic pigs and wild boar.

In 2007, the virus was introduced from Africa to the Caucasian countries Georgia and Armenia. From there was spread via the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and Belarus to the eastern part of the European Union, namely the Baltic States, Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania.

ASF has been confirmed in Romania’s largest pig breeding farm, TEBU Consult Brăila (June 2018), where 140,000 animals are being culled. The farm had been using water sourced from the nearby river Danube in the pig houses. The official reports suggest that some smallholders had been dumping dead pigs into the Danube which may have causes the ASF to be spread by river water.

The Bucharest Diagnostic and Animal Health Institute confirmed the existence of ASF Virus at TEBU Consult, the second largest farm in Europe.

According to ANSVSA according to ANSVSA (Romania’s National Veterinary Authority) the number of ASF outbreaks confirmed in Romania has reached 725, and the number of affected countries increased to 10.

Cases of ASF have been reported in 156 localities, mainly in small household farms. The virus has been more prevalent in southeast Romania, in Tulcea, Brăila, Galați, Constanța, Ialomița, Călărași and Ilfov countries. It is also present in northwest Romania, in Satu-Mare, Bihor and Sălaj countries.

The ASFV is very hardy and can survive long periods in very cold and very hot weather, and even in dried or cured pork products.

”Outbreaks such ASF are important reminders to us all that we must work together in a multi-lateral and inter-governmental efforts to prevent and respond to outbreaks of animal diseases because these diseases know no borders” (Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director – General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific).

Using air conditioning, installing window and door screens, and reducing peridomestic mosquito breeding sites can further decrease the risk for WNV exposure.

Susceptible pigs can be infected by direct or indirect contact with infectious animals or their fluids, ingestion of contaminated animal feed, pork or pig products, or contact with contaminated surfaces or fomites (clothing, foot wear, vehicles, farming tools, etc.) acting as mechanical vectors.

In the southern and eastern parts of the African continent and the Iberian Peninsula ASF can also be transmitted by biological vector infected soft ticks belonging to the Ornithodoros genus.

In 2017, ASF was reported for the first time in Czech Republic and Romania.

On July 31, 2017, Romania’s Veterinary Authority confirmed the first detection of ASF in a backyard herd of domestic pigs. Romania’s Veterinary Authority suspected that contaminated Ukrainian products are the likely source of the Romanian detection.

All control and eradication measures applicable are based on classical disease control methods which include: surveillance, epidemiological investigation, tracing of pigs, and stamping out in infected holdings. These measures are applied in combination with strict quarantine and biosecurity measures on domestic pig holdings and animal movement control.

Specific preventive measures based on biosecurity have been proposed depending on the type of farm: commercial, outdoor, or non-commercial.

Backyard farms are characterized by limited farming management practices, and nearly absent biosecurity levels. This type of farm is common in countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Poland or Sardinia. Non-commercial farms are built for own consumption purposes, investment is minimum and animals could be fed on kitchen leftovers.

The most important preventive measures are the identification of animals and farm records; enforcement of the ban on swill feeding; and containment of pigs to not allow contact with pigs from other farms, feral pigs or wild boar or their products.

In addition to this, other measures were considered relevant in preventing ASF introduction, namely education of farmers, workers, and operator; no contact between farmers farm staff and external pigs; appropriate removal of carcasses, slaughter residues and food waste; proper disposal of manure and dead animals, and abstention from hunting activities for a period of 48h prior to any contact with domestic pigs.