The uncontrolled presence of African swine fever (ASF) in Russian Federation (RF) poses a serious risk to the whole European Union (EU) pig industry. Although trade of pigs and their products is banned since the official notification in June 2007, the potential introduction of ASF virus (ASFV) may occur by other routes, which are very frequent in ASF, and more difficult to control, such as contaminated waste or infected vehicles. This study was intended to estimate the risk of ASFV introduction into the EU through three types of transport routes: returning trucks, waste from international ships and waste from international planes, which will be referred here as transport-associated routes (TAR). Since no detailed and official information was available for these routes, a semi-quantitative model based on the weighted combination of risk factors was developed to estimate the risk of ASFV introduction by TAR. Relative weights for combination of different risk factors as well as validation of the model results were obtained by an expert opinion elicitation.
Model results indicate that the relative risk for ASFV introduction through TAR in most of the EU countries (16) is low, although some countries, specifically Poland and Lithuania, concentrate high levels of risk, the returning trucks route being the analyzed TAR that currently poses the highest risk for ASFV introduction into the EU. The spatial distribution of the risk of ASFV introduction varies importantly between the analyzed introduction routes. Results also highlight the need to increase the awareness and precautions for ASF prevention, particularly ensuring truck disinfection, to minimize the potential risk of entrance into the EU.
This study presents the first assessment of ASF introduction into the EU through TAR. The innovative model developed here could be used in data scarce situations for estimating the relative risk associated to each EU country. This simple methodology provides a rapid and easy to interpret results on risk that may be used for a target and cost-effective allocation of resources to prevent disease introduction.