African swine fever and avian influenza rock Europe

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Avian influenza is tearing through Europe with outbreaks reported in at least eight countries
Avian influenza is tearing through Europe with outbreaks reported in at least eight countries

Related tags: Influenza

Sausages derived from pigs infected with African swine fever (ASF) have been identified in Moscow, while Europe continues to battle a growing bird flu epidemic.

In early November, Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor reported that the ASF genome had been detected in three types of sausages, which it claimed were produced by the Litkarinsky Meat Processing Plant in Moscow Oblast.

According to Eugene Bondarenko, a spokesperson from Rosselkhoznadzor for Chelyabinsk Oblast, the virus was discovered in 1,900 tonnes of sausages delivered from the plant to nearly 300 sales points in Chelyabinsk Oblast only.

Infected sausages

We have been constantly monitoring imports of these [sausage] products from the country’s regions that have a problem with ASF. At the moment, the decision has been taken to destroy the infected products in crematoria,​” said Bondarenko, adding it was essential to curb further spread of disease.

However, Vyacheslav Shestakov, director of the Litkarinsky Plant, has vehemently denied any blame for the incident claimed by Rosselkhoznadzor, saying production at his facility was fully clean.

This is a dirty insinuation by the Rosselkhoznadzor department in Chelyabinsk Oblast and our lawyers will deal with them. If we really allowed such an incident [to occur], our factory would be immediately closed and sealed,​” said Shestakov.

Meanwhile, further large outbreaks of ASF have been identified in both Russia​ and neighbouring countries. For instance, nearly 16,000 head of pigs have been culled in Krasnodar Oblast at the Kubansky Bacon farm, following the discovery of an ASF outbreak on 9 November. And another 8,000 head of pigs are due to be culled in Khmelnytskyi Oblast in Ukraine at the Podolsky Bacon farm, following the identification of an ASF outbreak on 14 November.

H5N8 threats to new countries?

At the same time, more attention has been paid to the epizootic situation in western Europe over the past week, as avian influenza subtype H5N8​ has returned to the continent with the outbreak of the disease detected in wild birds and poultry in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Croatia.

Veterinary services have discovered many dead waterfowl at the Verhnee Lake in Kaliningrad Oblast in Russia, with avian influenza suspected to be the reason. However, the actual cause of the problem has not been identified as yet and lab studies showed no presence of H5N8 in the bodies of the dead poultry.

Speaking about the threat of avian influenza at a press conference on 15 November, Belarus agriculture minister Leonid Zayats said Belarus would restrict imports of poultry from any region where a bird flu outbreak was identified. He said Belarus had sufficient domestic poultry to meet its own demand and the main task of the government was to avoid any loss to the country’s farmers.

According to Paulus Bushauskas, a spokesperson for Lithuania’s Food and Veterinary Service, there is a huge threat that avian influenza could spread to his country. Bushauskas called on farmers to shift to a close-mode form of operation on their poultry farms and take precautions to avoid any outbreaks.

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