Russia’s encounter with African Swine Fever began earlier this year, and the future prognosis is not good. Current reports indicate that the virus has been identified in 20 of the country’s regions.
Some regions have initiated a special veterinary and sanitary treatment schedule, but ASF is a highly contagious disease that spreads quickly. “It is probably the most feared swine disease in the globe,” notes Brett Stuart, international analyst with Global Agritrends in Denver, Colo.
There is no vaccine for ASF, and prior to the Russian outbreak, South Africa is the only country still dealing with the disease.
The big concern is that it’s moving nearer to Eastern Europe, including Poland and Lithuania. “Then you’re one step away from Germany,” Stuart says. “If it moves into Eastern Europe it is a very urgent concern.” Europe produces one in every five of the world’s hogs.
While Germany has long been a large pork producing state within Europe, in recent years Danish producers started sending weaned pigs into the country for the finishing stage. Of course, the more countries ASF spreads to, the harder it becomes to clean it up.
Animal disease experts say that the virus will only gain momentum. Among the reasons is that ASF has moved into the wild-pig population, which creates a serious control problem. There’s also the challenge of monitoring Russia’s pig farms, transport and biosecurity condition, as well as other veterinary security terms, according to the animal health reporting agency Rosselkhoznadzor.
According to Rosselkhoznadzor in mid-June, about 162,000 pigs were affected. It’s estimated that Russia has destroyed more than 10 percent of total its livestock.
"If we cannot stop the epizootic, billions of dollars in losses would be at stake," said Russian government officials.
If ASF spreads into other countries, the long-term cost would naturally be substantially higher and more devastating.