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African Swine Fever is 2020’s next threat

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As African swine fever (ASF) marches swiftly across countries affecting food security and livelihoods of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are calling on all nations and partners to join forces to keep this deadly pig disease at bay under a new initiative.

The disease is not dangerous to humans but it is fatal to pigs and a massive outbreak in China, the world’s biggest pork producer, and elsewhere in Asia led to massive changes in global pork trade flows.

The Global ASF Control Initiative is supporting stakeholders at every level to coordinate and strengthen control measures to minimise the impact of this complex and challenging disease.

Bringing together governments, industry and specialists, FAO and OIE will present the Initiative for the first time on a global stage this week.

The spread of ASF shows no signs of slowing down. The contagious disease has led to the loss of over 7 million pigs in Asia alone, since sweeping into this region. More than 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe are currently affected and the Americas are trying to prevent incursion into their territory.

“Our goal is to prevent the spread – and ultimately eradicate – this disease, leveraging the latest science, best practices and international standards,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in his video message to the participants. “If not controlled, this disease will jeopardize progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he continued calling on all stakeholders to take action to stop the spread of ASF, promote animal health and welfare, and safeguard the livelihoods of farmers.

“Today, no country is safe from African swine fever,” said OIE Director-General Monique Eloit. “The number of countries across the world reporting outbreaks to the OIE continues to grow. This corresponds to the biggest animal disease outbreak of our generation.” She stressed the need for continued investment in veterinary services, and the effective implementation of international standards, particularly those related to biosecurity and surveillance, to bring ASF under global control.

The disease causes up to 100 percent fatality in wild and domestic pigs and there is no effective vaccine. Although not infectious to humans, pig production is critical for many economies, and to the food security and livelihoods of millions of people. The fatal disease continues to extend its reach, causing further damage in the socioeconomic fallout from COVID-19.

As part of a week-long online event, government representatives, veterinarians, and specialists from around the world, will share knowledge and experiences on tools, approaches and state of the art research. Coordinated actions as part of the Initiative will build resilience utilising practical guidance, appropriate to specific needs and contexts.

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