Expert meeting organized by FAO focuses on ASF situation in the Balkans
FAO, with the help provided by the Czech Republic, has organized an international expert meeting in Belgrade, Serbia with a special focus on the ASF situation in the Balkans area.
Animal health specialists will exchange experiences and lessons learned while sharing practical solutions on African swine fever. They'll discuss the various surveillance, prevention and control measures available for wild boar populations and how they could be practically applied in the Balkans.
Pig meat has nutritional value as an affordable source of protein, traditional in this region, and is an important source of income for smallholder families. Both diets and incomes are at stake due to this deadly virus. Wild boar also are susceptible to the disease and thus contribute to its persistence and spread. In fact, the animals probably constitute the biggest challenge for the control of African swine fever control in Europe.
Despite huge efforts and investments, no country has been able to control it effectively because of the absence of a vaccine and the difficulty of prevent its spread through wild boar and backyard pigs. Having been spotted recently in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, the disease is at the doorsteps of the Balkan region.
"Correct biosecurity measures applied on farms are not enough to keep the disease at bay if, at the same time, there are no actions taken on their wild fellows," said Daniel Beltran-Alcrudo, FAO animal health officer. "The implication of all partners related to wild boar in the discussions and development of strategies – such as hunters, forestry services and veterinary services – is crucial to coordinate optimum management of the disease in wild boar populations."
African swine fever is a virus infection, harmless to humans but lethal to pigs. It can survive in pork products for months, meaning that when herds are fed leftovers and kitchen waste, the disease can be reintroduced. Also, carcasses of wild boar will remain infected for a long time, allowing the disease to re-emerge months after an outbreak is over.
Everywhere it has emerged, African swine fever has caused the death of thousands of animals and spurred the implementation of trade restrictions. It has affected livelihoods and caused serious economic losses. At the meeting, countries with experience in the management of the disease, such as Czechia, Georgia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine, will share their experiences with Balkan countries. The meeting will bring together state veterinary specialists; representatives from forestry agencies, hunting associations, and international agencies; and experts in wild boar biology and related fields. In the coming months, similar workshops will follow in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and North Macedonia.