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North American ASF campaign gains key support from OIE and FAO

A Pan-Canadian action plan is under development, says Canada’s CVO

The North American campaign to stop the spread of African swine fever just got a big boost from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), according to Canada’s chief veterinary officer.

ASF “is now everyone’s problem,” said Jaspinder Komal, Canada’s CVO.

At its recent general assembly meeting in Paris, OIE delegates agreed to launch a global initiative to control the spread of ASF and reduce its devastating economic impacts.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization will co-ordinate the international campaign with the OIE.

“We now have a global campaign to assist both infected and uninfected countries,” Komal said. “It also recognizes this is an economic and a social issue because of the mental health impact on producers.”

The OIE-FAO action will be the subject of further animal health meetings in Panama in September. This will build on the impetus generated by an international symposium against ASF hosted in Ottawa in May, Komal said.

The symposium led to a Canada-U.S. agreement to impose zoning restrictions on the movement of pigs without shutting down hog shipments between the two countries. If a case of ASF is identified, geographic boundaries are defined to contain the outbreak in accordance with OIE guidelines. The areas outside of these control zones are considered disease-free zones.

Under the Canada-U.S. zoning agreement, “Canada and the United States have worked to modify their export certificates to allow trade of live swine, swine semen, pet food and animal byproducts and meat to continue trade in approved disease-free zones in the event of an ASF outbreak,” Komal said.

A similar framework is being adopted in Europe where the disease has already popped up in several countries. Japan has also indicated its support for the zoning protocol developed by Canada and the U.S.

The OIE said the global control initiative is needed in part because there is no vaccine against the disease. ASF is spread by contact with infected hogs or contaminated feed, but it poses no threat to humans.

The OIE said it intends “to develop, improve and harmonize partnerships and co-ordination at national, regional and international levels — to control the disease, strengthen countries’ prevention and preparation efforts, and minimize the adverse effects on animal health, animal welfare and international trade.”

Among the steps needed to control ASF are effective traceability, management of wild pig populations and proper slaughter and disposal practices, the OIE said.

“Because of its complex epidemiology, it isn’t possible to control ASF without a co-ordinated response from the different sectors involved,” the OIE said. Governments need to ensure clear communication with all parties involved in the hog sector including those tracking wild herds.

Komal said federal officials are working with provincial governments and farm groups on how to raise awareness of the disease. This includes the threat ASF poses for small herds raised without the biosecurity protection large farms have in place.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is engaging with wildlife officials to deal with the threat posed by wild pigs and boars across the country.

The concern is that if ASF is discovered in wild boars or a small pig herd, it could shut down shipments from large farms in the surrounding areas.

“This is a complex problem,” said Komal.

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