Epidemiological analysis of the 2015–2017 African swine fever outbreaks in Estonia
African swine fever (ASF) was first detected in the Estonian wild boar population in September 2014, while the first domestic pig farm was affected in July 2015. In the present study, we aimed to analyse, retrospectively, the epidemiology of the disease in all 26 outbreaks in domestic pig herds that occurred in Estonia during the period 2015–2017. Formal interviews were conducted to estimate the high-risk period for every farm, and to identify the possible origin of the ASF virus and the mode of virus introduction. Furthermore, the clinical manifestation of the disease as well as the course of the disease within the farm were investigated. Survival analysis was used to calculate herd incidence and to estimate outbreak risk. A hierarchical Bayesian space–time model was used to analyse the associations between outbreaks and ASF occurrence in wild boar. The spatial and temporal distribution of outbreaks was analysed to characterise the ASF epidemic in the Estonian domestic pig population from 2015 to 2017. The estimated high-risk period varied from seven to 20 days with a median of 11 days. On most of the affected farms, the first clinical signs were mild and not specific to ASF despite the high virulence of the circulating virus. Morbidity and mortality were often limited to a single pen or unit of the farm. The highest mortality (29.7%) was seen on backyard farms with 1–10 pigs and the lowest (0.7%) on large commercial farms (>1000 pigs). The spread of the virus within affected farms has been slow and the contagiousness of the virus has been relatively low. Farms of all sizes and types have been at risk, including large commercial farms operating at a high biosecurity level. In none of the affected farms could the specific route of introduction be verified. However, the findings suggested that virus introduction occurred via indirect transmission routes due to insufficient biosecurity. The total herd incidence of outbreaks was similar across all three years, being 2.4% in 2015 and 2016, and 2.0% in 2017. All outbreaks occurred from June to September, during the warmest period of the year. The results suggest that the increase in ASF cases in local wild boar populations is the main risk factor leading to the infection of farms; 88% of outbreaks occurred in areas where ASF virus was detected in wild boar prior to the outbreak, within a radius of 15 km from the outbreak farm.