Georgia has been hit by African swine fever, a devastating pig disease that could also threaten neighbouring countries, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said Friday.
"This is a dramatic development," said Jan Slingenbergh, senior animal health officer at the Rome-based FAO, noting that the highly contagious viral disease "has been almost entirely confined to sub-Saharan Africa since 1990."
Armenia, Azerbaidjan and Russia "should be on high alert," he added There is no vaccine for African swine fever (ASF), which causes fever and has a high fatality rate, though it does not affect humans.
"The disease has a catastrophic effect on commercial and smallholder pig production and has serious socio-economic consequences for rural livelihoods," the FAO said in a statement, adding that the virus may have entered Georgia through imported frozen or processed pig meat.
Georgia reported outbreaks at the end of April, and some 20,000 of the Caucasus country's half a million pigs have been slaughtered.