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Russia’s veterinary watchdog fears swine fever spread to north-western Russia from EU

August 11, 2015, 20:58 UTC+3 MOSCOW

A common ASF-infected zone has formed in East European countries, which may trigger an epizootic outbreak in western Lithuania, Latvia and central Poland and later in Central and Southern Europe

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© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

MOSCOW, August 11. /TASS/. Russia’s veterinary and phytosanitary authority (Rosselkhoznadzor) said on Tuesday it is afraid of possible spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) due to the inconsistency of the European Commission in its approach to zoning territories prone to this disease.

"We can say that a common ASF-infected zone has formed in the territories of East European countries, which may trigger an epizootic outbreak in western Lithuania, Latvia and central Poland and later in Central and Southern Europe. This epizootic may outbreak within 2015-2016," Rosselkhozdazor said in a release. The watchdog did not rule out that ASF epizootic may spread northwards to northwestern Russia, Finland and Sweden, so far free from the infection.

The cause, according to Rosselkhozdazor, is "the current approach of the European Commission to ASF control measures."

The first quarantine zones were established by the European Commission immediately after the first ASF outbreak has been registered in Lithuania in January 2014. European Commission officials claimed these zones had been established in strict compliance with international recommendations and guaranteed against further spread of the disease. "Nonetheless, Russian experts, who have practical knowledge about the biology and ecology of the virus propagation, were skeptical about those statements and proved to be right," Rosselkhoznadzor said, adding that the European Commission had changed the scope of the quarantine zones more than ten times in the following months. However a key zoning principle is stability in time and area, the Russian watchdog stressed.

"Despite the complete failure of its own approach, the European Commission voices ‘concern’ within the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ASF situation in Russia, and now in China and Korea, which are sticking to a scientific and more pragmatic approach to ASF zoning in the European Union," Rosselkhoznadzor said.

According to earlier reports, the third African Swine Fever outbreak was registered among household animals in Latvia. The disease was found in a farming household near the border with Estonia. Latvia’s Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs said state support to pig breeders over the ASF outbreak may reach five million euro. A serious ASF outbreak was reported in Latvia in 2014.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious notifiable disease of pigs caused by a virus. The disease may occur in acute, sub-acute or chronic forms. The acute form causes severe disease from which the majority of affected pigs die. African Swine Fever can be spread through direct contact with infected pigs, faeces or body fluids; indirect contact via fomites such as equipment, vehicles or people who work with pigs between pig farms with ineffective biosecurity; pigs eating infected pig meat or meat products; biological vectors - ticks of the species Ornithodoros. There is no vaccine against African Swine Fever, which can be stopped from spreading only through culling infected animals. The first African Swine Fever outbreak was registered in South Africa in 1903.

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