BRANDENBURG, GERMANY – Germany reported its first confirmed case of African swine fever (ASF) to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). The source of the infection was unknown, but officials confirmed the virus in a decomposed carcass of an infected dead female wild boar found in the German state of Brandenburg.
Animal health officials have imposed a quarantine of 15 km around the area where the animal was found and are searching for other dead animals that might have succumbed to the disease. The government also imposed movement restrictions on farm animals, according to an animal disease alert filed with the OIE.
Native to Africa, ASF has spread to Eastern European and Asian countries over the last two years. It is a hemorrhagic disease of pigs, warthogs, European wild boar and American feral pigs. ASF is highly contagious, and swine of all age groups are susceptible to it. Currently, there are no vaccines against the disease.
Mortality rates in a swineherd can be as high as 100%, and death can occur within two to 10 days on average, according to the OIE. The virus isn’t harmful to humans and doesn’t represent a food safety risk.
Pork industry analysts began tracking the disease as it spread westward from Eastern Europe. Government agencies in Europe and the United Kingdom reported outbreaks of the disease in domestic pigs and wild boar populations in the Czech Republic, Kaliningrad, Romania, Hungary and Poland which shares a border with Germany.
China’s swineherd has been hard-hit by ASF. The first outbreak of the disease occurred in Shenyang, the largest city in Liaoning Province, in August of 2018. In response to the outbreak, the Chinese government implemented control measures that included movement control inside the country; surveillance outside containment and/or protection zones; screening; quarantine; official destruction of animal products; official disposal of carcasses, byproducts and waste; stamping out; control of wildlife reservoirs; zoning and disinfection. Still, the virus continued to spread eventually affecting as much as half of China’s 700 million hogs which died or were culled. Official estimates from China were much lower at 20% to 30%.
Efforts to rebuild the swineherd in China are gaining traction, but industry analysts estimate that it could take China’s pork industry until 2025 to recover.
The discovery of ASF in Germany is a setback for the country which also is coping with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. An outbreak of the disease among workers at a pork processing plant owned by Tönnies Group resulted in the temporary closure of the facility which processes 14% of the pork produced in Germany.
Germany also is a significant supplier of pork to China which has increased imports of pork to fill supply gaps caused by ASF outbreaks. South Korea, Germany’s second-largest pork export destination, imposed a ban on pork from Germany in response to news of the finding.