English pig farmers' knowledge and behaviour towards African swine fever suspicion and reporting

African swine fever (ASF) is a notifiable, virulent swine disease, and is a major threat to animal health and trade for many European Union (EU) countries. Early detection of the introduction of ASF virus is of paramount importance to be able to limit the potential extent of outbreaks. However, the timely and accurate reporting of ASF primary cases strongly depends on how familiar pig farmers are with the clinical signs, and their motivation to report the disease. Here, an online questionnaire survey was conducted between December 2014 and April 2015 to investigate English pig farmers’ knowledge and behaviour towards ASF in terms of clinical suspicion and reporting. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors influencing the two variables of interest: 1) farmers who “would immediately suspect ASF” if they observed clinical signs of fever, lethargy, reduced eating and high mortality on their farm and 2) farmers who “would immediately report ASF” if they suspected ASF on their farm. The questionnaire was completed by 109 pig farmers. Results indicate that pig farmers having poor knowledge about ASF clinical signs and limited concern about ASF compared with other pig diseases are less likely to consider the possibility of an outbreak of ASF on their farm. In addition, pig farmers lacking awareness of outbreaks in other countries, having a perception of the negative impact on them resulting from false positive reporting and the perceived complexity of reporting procedures are less likely to report an ASF suspicion. These findings indicate important areas for educational campaigns targeted at English pig farmers to focus on in an attempt to increase the likelihood of a rapid response in the event of an ASF outbreak.

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