On November 26th, 2022, Kremlin propaganda media ‘Channel One’ aired another story about the “military biological activities of the Pentagon” conducted in the post-Soviet countries. The story alleged that a particularly dangerous strain of African swine fever has spread from Georgia, despite the fact that the virus is not endemic to the region. The story also hints that the spread of the virus may be linked to the Richard Lugar Laboratory operating in Tbilisi.
The claim that Georgia was the source of the spread of African swine fever is disinformation, while linking ASF with the Lugar Laboratory is conspiracy amplified by the Kremlin. According to a 2008 study, ASF entered Georgia from southeast African countries. Not to mention, ASF appeared in Georgia in 2007 while the Lugar Laboratory started operating only in 2011.
What is African swine fever, and how did it spread in Georgia?
African swine fever is a highly transmissible infectious disease that can affect both domestic and wild pigs of any age.
The spread of the disease occurs through both live pigs and pork products, so countries take biosecurity measures when importing pork. The main task of preventing the spread of African swine fever is to prevent the introduction of the pathogen into the country. For example, in 2019, after African swine fever was confirmed in two dead wild boars in Belgium, Denmark began building a 70-kilometer fence along the border with Germany to prevent the migration of wild boars from Germany. Notably, the virus can remain on shoes and clothing, so humans can also become the carriers of the virus, although African swine fever does not infect people and, therefore, does not pose a threat to their health. Once a diagnosis has been made, infected pigs must be isolated and eliminated. For prevention purposes, it is important to burn all the remains of slaughtered and dead pigs, including stalls and other equipment.
African swine fever first appeared on the African continent in 1909. In 1921, Robert Montgomery officially studied African swine fever in Kenya and described the mechanism of the spread of the disease. From the African continent, the disease entered Portugal in 1957 and was identified in Spain in 1960. The elimination of the disease in European countries was achieved only as a result of the mass extermination of pigs.
African swine fever appeared on the territory of the USSR in the 70s in the Odesa region and Moldova. The disease was first identified in Georgia in the spring of 2007 and soon spread throughout the country. According to a 2008 study regarding the African swine fever virus, the virus came to Georgia from the countries of southeast Africa. To determine the genotype of the virus, DNA fragments taken from the genome of a domestic pig in Georgia were compared with that of another virus (ASF). Analysis of these sequences showed that the 2007 isolates from Georgia are closely related to the genotype II isolates circulating in Mozambique, Madagascar and Zambia. There is speculation that the pigs consumed contaminated meat, which was brought to Georgia by a ship carrying meat products and then the virus spread throughout the whole region.
It should also be noted that the connection between the spread of African swine fever in Georgia and the Lugar Laboratory is a Kremlin conspiracy. As already noted, African swine fever first spread in Georgia in 2007, and the Lugar Laboratory opened only in 2011.
Myth Detector has fact-checked the disinformation regarding the spread of African swine fever in Georgia in the past as well:
- Disinformation of the so-called “South Ossetian” KGB, as if the African Swine Fever Virus is Spreading from Georgia
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