The History of ASF
African Swine Fever (AFS) has devastated herds in more than its country of origin. Pigs as far afield as Russian and China have been impacted over the years as have many areas of Europe.
The outbreak of ASF which began in China in 2018 continues to ravage herds across Asia and further afield. Sadly, the presence of this untreatable disease is nothing new. Countries around the world are on high alert due to the latest outbreaks.
The disease is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and Sardinia, meaning it does not occur naturally in any other location. This hasn’t helped with containing it. There have been many instances throughout history where it crossed over into other countries.
ASF outbreaks around the world
The first actively recognized outbreak occurred in Kenya in 1921, but this led to a retroactively-recognized incident having taken place in 1907. ASF was then officially present and contained in Africa for half a century until it broke the border of Portugal in 1957. Pigs near the capital city of Lisbon were fed with waste products from a plane which infected them with ASF. A second Portuguese outbreak followed in 1960.
Pigs being fed contaminated material was the cause of multiple ASF reports in the 20th century in Spain (1960), Italy (1983), and Belgium (1985). The Iberian Peninsula (Portugal and Spain) suffered continued outbreaks until the mid 1990s. Both countries eventually managed to eradicate the disease through a slaughter policy.
France would suffer three reported outbreaks in 1964, 1967, and 1977 and is currently endangered by a recent ASF report from the Gaume region of southern Belgium. Cuba was hit by ASF in 1971 which resulted in the slaughter of, by some estimates, half a million pigs in an attempt to contain it. The disease was traced to a tick vector but was successfully eradicated. It was also successfully contained by the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Haiti in the same year.
Belgium reported its first case in 1985 followed by The Netherlands in 1986. Georgia in the Caucasus was infected in 2007 and ASF spread out from there to five further regions – Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Armenia, and Iran – via the illegal distribution of contaminated meat. The Czech Republic recently ended a two-year battle against the disease when it was announced they had finally eradicated it.
China is still fighting to get back on its feet since ASF struck last August.