In light of the increasing number of African swine fever (ASF) cases in other EU member states, the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) is reminding pig farmers in Estonia that the risk of ASF persists, and that a careful approach to the implementation of biosecurity measures is essential.
“Although the last case of ASF in a domestic pig farm in Estonia was in September 2017, isolated cases of the disease in wild boars still indicate that ASF is still circulating to some extent, and thus one should not let down their guard,” Maarja Kristian, adviser at the Animal Health and Welfare Department of the VTA, said in a press release.
According to Kristian, it is still important that pig farms and households carefully comply with biosecurity requirements, all the moreso as summer is the most favorable time for ASF to spread. She reminded farmers that, despite the season, it is still forbidden to keep pigs outside or to feed them fresh grass.
In recent weeks, ASF outbreaks in domestic pigs have increased in several EU member states. 29 pig farms in Poland, 12 in Lithuania and one farm in Latvia have already reported cases of ASF thus far this year. The disease is also spreading to Romania, where the number of infected farms has risen to over 500. 22 farms have also been infected in Bulgaria, where the most recent case involved a farm with over 36,000 pigs, the largest pig farming enterprise to be infected with ASF to date. On July 25, the first outbreak in Slovakia was announced as well.
The biggest economic losses thus far this year have been recorded in pig farming in Bulgaria, Poland and Romania, where over 82,000, 27,401 and 26,385 pigs, respectively, were killed. In Lithuania and Latvia, small pig farms have been most affected by ASF.
Four years since ASF spread to Estonia
July 21 marked four years since the first case of ASF was confirmed at an Estonian pig farm. From 2015-2017, the virus spread to altogether 27 farms, where altogether 42,583 pigs died or were killed as a result of the disease.
As of June 30, a total of 3,046 domestic pigs in Estonia have tested negative for ASF. Wild boars, meanwhile, have been tested on 2,471 occasions; the last infected wild boar was identified in Lääne County this February.
This January, one infected wild boar was found in Saaremaa, while another were identified in Ida-Viru County. Since May, only wild boars with ASF antibodies have been found, indicating that the animals have survived the disease. These wild boars are healthy in appearance, but have been exposed to the ASF virus and as such are likewise considered dangerous in terms of the possible spread of infection.