African swine fever in the Lithuanian wild boar population in 2018: a snapshot
The first cases of African swine fever (ASF) were detected in the Lithuanian wild boar population in 2014. Since then, the disease spread slowly through the whole country, affecting both, wild boar and domestic pigs. In the other Baltic states, which both are also affected by ASF since 2014, the recent course of ASF prevalence suggests that the countries might be well under way of disease elimination. In contrast, in Lithuania the epidemic seems to be still in full progress. In the present study, we aimed to extend a previous prevalence study in Lithuania. Looking at ASF virus (ASFV) and seroprevalence estimates of wild boar in all months of 2018 and in all affected municipalities in Lithuania, the course of ASF was evaluated on a temporal and spatial scale. A non-spatial beta-binomial model was used to correct for under- or overestimation of the average prevalence estimates. Within 2018 no big differences between the prevalence estimates were seen over time. Despite of the lower sample size, highest ASFV prevalence estimates were found in dead wild boar, suggesting higher detection rates through passive surveillance than through active surveillance. Accordingly, with the maximum prevalence of 87.5% in May 2018, the ASFV prevalence estimates were very high in wild boar found dead. The number of samples originating from hunted animals (active surveillance) predominated clearly. However, the ASFV prevalence in those animals was lower with a maximum value of 2.1%, emphasizing the high value of passive surveillance. A slight increase of the seroprevalence in hunted wild boar could be seen over time. In the center of Lithuania, a cluster of municipalities with high ASFV and seroprevalence estimates was found. The results of the study indicate that ASFV is still circulating within the Lithuanian wild boar population, constituting a permanent risk of disease transmission into domestic pig holdings. However, additional, more recent data analyses are necessary to re-evaluate the course of ASF in Lithuania and thus, to be able to make a statement about the stage of the ASF epidemic in the country. This is of huge importance for Lithuania for evaluating control measures and their efficacy, but also for neighbouring countries to assess the risk of disease spread from Lithuania.