ROME – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) issued a warning Aug. 21 that African swine fever has established a firm foothold in the Caucasus and poses a threat to neighboring areas.

The disease was detected for the first time ever in Ukraine. FAO officials said control measures appear to have stopped the spread of the disease. However, other parts of Ukraine and nearby countries such as Moldova, Kazakhstan and Latvia are at high risk of disease introduction because all of those countries have large swine populations that are being raised on family farms with weak biosecurity protocols.

"National and local authorities in the entire region should scale up their prevention measures and be ready to respond in case of further outbreaks," said Juan Lubroth, FAO's chief veterinary Officer. "This could be the first of more outbreaks to come, according to our disease analyses."

African swine flu is caused by a highly infectious virus that affects domestic and wild pig species, according to FAO. Scavenging pigs can be exposed by consuming food items, pork or product products contaminated with the virus. European wild boars are also susceptible to the virus, making them a source for transmission because they can wander across national boundaries, FAO said.

Lubroth said Ukraine responded quickly to the threat by implementing sanitary measures, destroying infected pigs and imposing a quarantine zone around the village where the outbreaks occurred. Farmers were compensated for the animals that were destroyed.