African swine fever is a viral disease of pigs and wild boar that is usually deadly. There are neither vaccines nor cures. For this reason, it has serious socio-economic consequences in affected countries. Humans are not susceptible to the disease.
The typical signs of African swine fever are similar to classical swine fever, and the two diseases normally have to be distinguished by laboratory diagnosis. Symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, lack of energy, abortions, internal bleeding, with haemorrhages visible on the ears and flanks. Sudden death may occur. Severe strains of the virus are generally fatal (death occurs within 10 days). Animals infected with mild strains of African swine fever virus may not show typical clinical signs.
Transmission and spread
Healthy pigs and boar usually become infected by:
- Contact with infected animals, including contact between free-ranging pigs and wild boar.
- Ingestion of meat or meat products from infected animals – kitchen waste, swill feed, infected wild boar (including offal).
- Contact with anything contaminated by the virus such as clothing, vehicles and other equipment.
- Bites by infectious ticks.
Movement of infected animals, contaminated pork products and the illegal disposal of carcasses are the most significant means of spread of the disease.
Where is it found?
African swine fever is endemic in sub–Saharan Africa. In Europe, it has been endemic in Sardinia for several decades. In 2007 outbreaks occurred in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the European part of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
Outbreaks in the European Union
From Russia and Belarus, the disease spread to the European Union. Lithuania reported cases of African swine fever in wild boar for the first time in January 2014. Poland followed in February 2014 and Latvia and Estonia in June and September of the same year. The disease continued to spread and, by the end of 2019, it was present in nine EU Member States: Belgium, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare provides independent scientific advice on animal health and related food safety issues to risk managers, namely the European Commission, European Parliament and Member States.
Experts have provided scientific advice on African swine fever several times over the past years. This included:
- Assessing the risk of introduction of African swine fever into the European Union
- Looking at the role of vectors, namely ticks, in the spread of the disease
- Supporting Member States in standardising the way they collect data
- Providing epidemiology updates – information on the incidence, distribution, and possible control measures