By Aleksandras Budrys
MOSCOW (Reuters) - African Swine Fever (ASF), lethal to pigs though harmless to humans, has reached central Russia and may spread to all European parts of the country, the country's chief veterinarian said on Tuesday.
"We are on the verge of a new wave of proliferation of the virus," Nikolai Vlasov, who is also deputy head of the animal and plant health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, told reporters.
He said that outbreaks of ASF, which has no cure, have been registered this year at five small farms in the central Russian region of Tver bordering the Moscow region.
Medium and large Russian pig breeding farms are well protected against ASF and other diseases. It is mainly small farms that are affected by the contagious virus, which is spread partly by wild boars.
ASF, which was confirmed for the first time in Russia in 2007, has so far been found mainly in the south of the country. It continues spreading due to delays in the adoption of efficient measures to prevent its proliferation.
Three years ago the disease was discovered outside the Southern Federal Disrict only twice. In the first six months of this year the virus was found in five regions outside the district, in north-western and central Russia, Vlasov said.
"We give instructions, which are ignored," he said.
The watchdog earlier this year proposed a program to eradicate the pig killer within seven years, costing around $400 million. [ID:nLDE7380X1] The government has so far failed to approve it.
"If things continue to go as they do now in the Tver region, where wild boars are plentiful, the northwest of the country may soon start resembling the south," Vlasov said.
"Wide proliferation of any infectious disease in Russia is a global problem due to its colossal territory and the huge number of countries it has borders with," he added.
(Reporting by Aleksandras Budrys, editing by Anthony Barker)