African swine fever in Latvian wild boar – a step closer to elimination
In 2014, African swine fever (ASF) emerged in Latvia for the first time. The majority of cases appeared in wild boar, but the presence of ASF in these animals constitutes a permanent threat to domestic pig holdings. Recent studies have shown an increase of serologically positive and a decrease of PCR‐positive ASF cases in wild boar, possibly indicating a decline of ASF incidence. We aimed to investigate the course of the ASF epidemic in wild boar in Latvia, thus attaining further insights into the ASF epidemiology in this country with the goal of assessing the stage of the epidemic. Latvian ASF surveillance data of wild boar were utilised to estimate the seroprevalence and ASF virus (ASFV) prevalence in the wild boar population. Prevalence estimates were obtained for both the eastern and western part of the country and in addition for the 2014/15 to 2018/19 hunting seasons. Moreover, prevalence estimates for three different age classes were calculated. An increase of serologically positive yet PCR‐negative wild boar samples from active surveillance were identified over time. When comparing the age groups, wild boar younger than one year displayed the ASFV prevalence to be higher than the seroprevalence, whereas older animals shared higher seroprevalence estimates. These findings support the assumption that only a small proportion of affected animals survive an infection, leading to an accumulation of their numbers over time. As a result, ASF elimination in a country with an infected wild boar population could possibly be achieved, if effective wild boar population management and surveillance is maintained and combined with the detection and removal of wild boar carcasses to reduce the viral load in the environment. In addition, the wild boar population should be kept as small as possible to break the ASFV infection cycle.