Improved surveillance, communication and collaboration are key to controlling the spread of African swine fever (ASF) in Europe, according to a new risk assessment carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
EFSA said the assessment estimates the potential for the disease to spread across southeastern Europe. It was requested by the European Commission to support efforts to control and prevent the spread of ASF in the region, the agency said in its announcement.
EFSA evaluated the possibility of ASF spread among nine disease-free countries: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia (which reported an ASF case while the assessment was being finalized) and Slovenia.
The agency concluded that the chances of the disease spreading among these countries within one year of introduction are very high (66-100%). However, the chances of the disease spreading west into other European Union member states within the same time frame were rated as very low (0-15%).
Control measures, which have been in place in the EU since 2014, should continue to focus on the importance of early detection and preparedness, EFSA said.
In particular, EFSA recommended:
* Rigorous surveillance, especially surveillance of wild boars and domestic pigs, which remains the most effective means for early detection of ASF;
* Measures to limit access of wild boars to food and further reduce boar numbers through hunting;
* Awareness campaigns for travelers, hunters, farmers, etc., to limit the risk of spread via movement of people as well as to assist with early detection;
* Communication and collaboration among national authorities and stakeholders to support awareness campaigns, and
* Training activities for veterinary officers, other relevant bodies and hunters to increase the probability of early detection and effective control.