African Swine Fever’s Most Recent Victim in 2018: Ghana

Wild pigs
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The Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) reports that Ghana has seen its first case of African Swine Fever (ASF) in 2018. The disease seems to be spreading at a faster pace this year in Europe, Asia and Africa.

“Ghana confirmed the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) in five districts in the Central Region of Ghana in May 2018, situated on the country’s coast” GAIN reported. “Ghanaian officials applied immediate disease control measures including culling of 898 hogs in five districts in the affected region.”

The country has had almost yearly outbreaks since 2009. It was first identified 10 years earlier, in September of 1999, the GAIN report said. This is the first report of the virus in the country for 2018.

The Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University says African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a serious, highly contagious, viral disease. It can spread rapidly in pig populations by direct or indirect contact, and can persist for long periods in uncooked pig products, facilitating its introduction into new areas.

The virus also can become endemic in feral or wild pigs, states the Center, and transmission cycles between these animals and Ornithodoros ticks can make eradication challenging.

Complicated by Informal Trade and Lack of Compensation
In less-developed countries, it’s often difficult to control informal trade with neighboring countries. And in Ghana, producers are not compensated for their losses, so they may not report the disease when they see it. This complicates response and quarantine efforts, noted the GAIN report.

“Unsubstantiated reports associate the Ghanaian outbreak with a larger outbreak in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire that began in late 2017,” the GAIN report said. “Pork imports to the two countries totaled $22 million in 2017.”

According to Government of Ghana (GOG) sources, the virus was first reported on May 1, 2018.

“By May 18, the mortality rate stood at 83%,” according to the GAIN report. “Once Ghana confirmed the virus’ presence, the Veterinary Services Directorate (VSD) applied immediate measures as per the country’s ASF Contingency Plan, which includes biosecurity measures, and strengthening and designation of the surveillance and protection areas to prevent the spread of the virus. The GOG also banned the movement, slaughtering, and sale of pigs in the Central Region.

“However, by July 2018, the disease spread to five (5) districts in the region due to movement of pigs and pork products despite heightened measures to prevent such occurrences,” the report said. “VSD also urged pig farmers to cooperate with the GOG to ensure swift destruction of animals, in the interest of the farmers and the industry. VSD officials destroyed about 898 pigs, with barns cleaned and thoroughly disinfected. Owners of affected pig farms received no financial compensation.”

According to GOG officials, the lack of compensation for farmers further complicates controlling disease outbreaks. Farmers are reluctant to report signs or incidences of ASF to VSD, knowing that they will lose pigs without compensation. There are past reports of farmers secretly burying and even dumping pigs in the ocean to avoid culling efforts. The GOG and members of the Pig Farmers Association confirmed that to date there are no registered outbreaks outside the Central Region, the GAIN report said.

“The pig industry in Ghana registered very significant growth in the last decade. Although most of the farms are small-scale, pig numbers increased to over 650,000 and pork products are in high demand,” the report said. “The growth in pig production is generally due to the increasing number of urban, middle-income consumers. Ghana’s pork imports were small and steady over the past five years, totaling $2.6 million in 2017. Côte d’Ivoire has a smaller domestic herd than Ghana, estimated between 350,000-400,000, but total consumption is likely higher as evidenced by strong import demand. Côte d’Ivoire’s pork imports totaled $19.4 million in 2017, registering growth of nearly 60% over the last five years.”

While the role of cross-border trade with Côte d’Ivoire remains unsubstantiated in this particular instance, transboundary movement of animals and animal products presents an additional challenge to official response efforts when disease outbreaks occur.

Early Detection Important
Early detection of ASF is critical in controlling its spread. In the fall of 2016, a quick, accurate test to identify the virus became available.

"African Swine Fever Virus is a complex virus that can't be identified from classical swine fever, by either clinical or post-mortem examination," said Sandrine Moine, R&D manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific. The company developed a highly sensitive and accurate diagnostic test to help monitor and control the disease in animals.

“The LSI VetMAX African Swine Fever Virus Detection Kit provides a useful tool for early detection of the ASFV in pigs and wild boars as well as to confirm a clinical diagnosis," Moine said.

Increased Spread Worrisome
Earlier this month, Farm Journal’s PORK reported that ASF had been identified for the first time in China, and it continues to be a problem in Eastern Europe, Russia and The Ukraine.

The spread of the disease in other countries causes increased concern for protecting the U.S. swine herd from the devastating virus. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect herds from ASF.  If the virus were to be discovered in the U.S., the consequences would be catastrophic. Export markets would disappear and swine movement would come to a halt.