The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched a joint initiative for the global control of African swine fever.

Pork is the most consumed meat in the world, representing 35.6% of global meat consumption. In recent years, African swine fever (ASF), which may cause up to 100% mortality in pigs but does not affect humans, has become a major crisis for the pork industry, causing massive losses of pig populations and drastic economic losses. Currently, ASF affects several countries of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Europe, and with no effective vaccine, the disease does not only impede animal health and welfare but it also has detrimental impacts on farmers and the economy in general.

“Today, 51 countries are affected by ASF. Amid the difficult situation posed by Covid-19, ASF continues to spread, intensifying the current health and socioeconomic crises,” said Matthew Stone, OIE Deputy Director General for International Standards and Science. Many countries that are affected by ASF lack sufficient human, financial or technical resources to rapidly detect, respond, and contain animal diseases.

“In this globalized world, where diseases can spread rapidly across borders, timely sharing of the latest scientific information, international collaboration, and notification of ASF are needed to prevent transboundary spread and minimize impact,” said María Helena Semedo, FAO’s Deputy Director-General.

The OIE and FAO call on countries and partners to join forces against this deadly pig disease by adopting the new initiative for the Global Control of ASF.

Building upon the experience of the long-standing collaboration between the OIE and FAO for the management of animal health related risks, the joint Global Framework for Progressive Control of Transboundary Animal Diseases (GF-TADs) developed the Global Initiative with the aim of fostering national, regional and global partnerships to strengthen control measures and to minimize the impact of this complex and challenging disease.

The Initiative for the Global Control of ASF aims to:

  1. Improve the capability of countries to control (prevent, respond, and eradicate) ASF using OIE International Standards and best practices that are based on the latest science.
  2. Establish an effective coordination and cooperation framework for the global control of ASF.
  3. Facilitate business continuity ensuring safe production and trade to protect food systems.

Coordinated actions as part of the Global Initiative should take place while maintaining transparency regarding reporting of animal diseases and investing in strong and resilient animal health systems.

The Global Initiative builds on previous regional efforts and follows recommendations of ASF experts from around the world. It aims to strengthen the ability of each country’s veterinary services to manage risks through the development and implementation of ASF national control programs, with public and private sectors working together. Risk communication with the relevant stakeholders will be crucial to effectively address high-risk pathways and practices.

On a global scale, the sustained spread of ASF poses a threat to food security, as well as rural and economic development. The disease represents a barrier to the agricultural sector to reach its full potential, generate employment, and alleviate poverty, and it acts as a disincentive to investment in the pig sector. Global control of ASF will thus contribute to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, notably Goals 1 (no poverty) and 2 (zero hunger).

Impact of the disease

 An alarming number of 25 countries/territories reported new or ongoing outbreaks through immediate notifications and follow-up reports: 10 in Europe (Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine); 11 in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam), and 3 in Africa (Namibia, Nigeria, and South Africa).

African swine fever has been reported as sufficiently stable in Nigeria since 2008. However, an unexpected change in the distribution, morbidity, and mortality was confirmed in May 2020. Consequently, an immediate notification was submitted to inform the OIE and its member countries. The country stated the following: “The outbreak started in February with minimal fatality, but the number of deaths increased drastically in May/June. The affected pig population is located in a pig village, a large pig farm settlement that feeds several other pig markets within and outside the country.”

A total of 224 outbreaks were notified: 207 in swine (Myanmar (1), the Philippines (22), Russia (3), and Vietnam (181), and 17 in wild boar in South Korea (16), and Russia (1). In Europe, a total of 376 outbreaks were notified: 30 in swine (Romania (28), Russia (1), and Latvia (1)), and 346 in wild boar (in Hungary, Latvia, Poland, and Romania). In this region, a targeted surveillance program is ongoing.

 Romania accounted for the majority of losses in Europe (521), while the Philippines and Vietnam reported the highest number of losses in Asia (10,175 and 6,054, respectively).[:]