Pigkeepers’ knowledge and perceptions regarding African Swine Fever and the control measures in Estonia

African swine fever (ASF) has been present in Estonia since 2014, and pigkeepers play a major role in controlling the spread of viral infection in domestic pigs. Participatory epidemiology may provide insight into livestock keepers’ existing attitudes and compliance with implementing control strategies. By conducting focus group discussions and using participatory epidemiology tools, this study aimed to reveal pigkeepers’ knowledge and awareness of ASF clinical signs, transmission routes, and preventive measures. Furthermore, opinions including trust in stakeholders in ASF control, acceptability of ASF eradication, and control measures by pigkeepers in Estonia were identified. The most indicative ASF signs in pigs were “increased mortality” and “fever, inappetence, lethargy”. The highest risk of virus introduction into the herd was designated to “agricultural machinery, vehicles”, “rodents, birds, insects”, and “people”. “Fencing” was the most liked ASF preventive measure, while “training of staff in biosecurity and informing the visitors” was considered the most effective measure. The least accepted ASF eradication measure was “culling of all animals on the farm”. Generally, pigkeepers perceived that healthy animals should not be culled but only ASF-infected pigs. Additionally, healthy pigs could be slaughtered and used for the production of heat-treated canned meat. “Destroying the feed” of ASF-infected farms was not favoured because some pigkeepers proposed using it for other animal species. Regarding ASF territorial restrictions (zoning), “lower meat prices” and “economic losses” were regarded as consequences with the greatest impact. Pigkeepers ranked trust in “Veterinary Authority and Ministry of Rural Affairs” regarding their role in ASF prevention and control as high while perceiving themselves as the most trustworthy stakeholder within the ASF network. This study demonstrates a generally good level of awareness among the pigkeepers in Estonia concerning the clinical manifestation of ASF, the most relevant transmission routes of the virus for their farms, and preventive measures for ASF. Pigkeepers are aware of their own role in preventing ASF, and there is a high level of trust between them and government authorities. Additional efforts are needed from authorities to communicate better the purpose of some ASF control and eradication measures to the pigkeepers. Further incentives are required to support the implementation of costly biosecurity measures, assure compliance, and mitigate the consequences of these measures.



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