African swine fever epidemiology, surveillance and control
The introduction of genotype II African swine fever (ASF) virus (ASFV) into the Caucasus in 2007 resulted in unprecedented disease propagation via slow geographical expansion through wild boar populations, short- and long-distance human-mediated translocations, and incursions into naïve wild boar and domestic pig populations. The disease is now widespread in eastern and central Europe as well as in Asia, including China. The global dimension of the current epidemic shows that all countries need to be prepared for an introduction. In its natural habitat in Africa, ASFV is maintained within an ancient cycle between soft argasid ticks and the common warthog. Once introduced to the domestic pig population, direct and indirect virus transmission occurs with or without involvement of the tick vector in the pig-tick and domestic pig epidemiological cycles respectively. In the domestic pig cycle, human activities involving pigs or pig derived products are the dominating driver of virus transmission. ASF epidemiology in the presence of wild boar and northern European climates has proved to have specific characteristics, described in the wild boar-habitat epidemiological cycle. In this cycle wild boar carcasses and the resulting contamination of the environment play key roles in virus persistence. In both the wild boar-habitat and the domestic pig epidemiological cycle, fully implemented biosecurity is the key for stopping virus transmission and controlling the disease. Positive examples from the Czech Republic and Belgium show that control and eradication of ASF from the wild boar-habitat cycle can be achieved. Both these cases, as well as the example of Sardinia, where ASFV genotype I now seem very close to eradication after more than 40 years presence, further underline the importance of involving, engaging and understanding all stakeholders in the value chains from farm and forest to fork in order to accomplish ASF control and eradication.