Since its resurgence in January 2021, the highly contagious African Swine Fever (ASF) virus has rampantly spread across the globe, infiltrating 49 countries by August 2023. The virus, infamous for its nearly 100% fatality rate among domestic and wild pigs, has wrought havoc on pig populations, with over 1.5 million animals lost within this timeframe. The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), a prominent intergovernmental organization dedicated to combatting animal diseases, released a report detailing this alarming spread on August 21, 2023.
Rapid Contagion Across Continents
- Since January 2021, the highly contagious African Swine Fever (ASF) virus has spread to 49 countries by August 2023.
- This virus affects both domestic and wild pigs, causing nearly 100% mortality.
- Over 1.5 million animals have been lost due to ASF, with devastating consequences for pig populations.
Unveiling Disturbing Losses
- ASF has led to significant losses, affecting more than 950,000 pigs and over 28,000 wild boars.
- Geographical impact spans five regions: Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania.
- Europe reports the highest loss of domestic pigs, totaling one million, followed by Asia with 370,000 and Africa with 24,143.
Hidden Toll and Persistent Threat
- Reported figures may not fully capture the extent of the ASF crisis.
- The provided statistics consider losses within outbreak-affected establishments but exclude animals culled near outbreaks.
- The virus continues to spread into new territories, with nine countries reporting first ASF occurrences and ten noting its expansion into previously unaffected areas.
Urgent Measures and Lessons Learned
- The rapid ASF spread emphasizes the need for:
- Strengthened biosecurity protocols.
- Robust early reporting and response systems.
- Heightened disease awareness throughout the livestock value chain.
India’s Century-Long Shield Shattered
- India remained ASF-free for a century, until the virus arrived in 2020.
- Initially emerged in China in 2018, devastating porcine populations across Asia.
- India reported its first ASF case in 2020, starting in Assam and subsequently affecting other northeastern states and beyond.
Inexorable Spread and Challenging Battles
- ASF even infiltrated bio-secure environments in India.
- Assam’s government pig-breeding farm and ICAR-National Research Centre on Pig in Guwahati were impacted.