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African swine fever cases in Western Europe spark concern

African swine fever cases in Western Europe spark concern

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Belgium confirmed this Thursday (13th of September 2018) that they have a case of African swine fever. This confirms that the infection has spread to the west of the EU.

For several weeks now it has been a concern that African swine fever may affect the pigs in Western Europe. This would not mean that there could be import-bans on pigs and pig produces from the non-EU markets. According to the food safety agency (AFSCA Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain) and the SPW (Public Service of Wallonia), from Belgium two boars with the disease around the southern village of Étalle were detected. France, the neighbour has also stepped up their preventive measures to stop the spread of the infection to their farms.

African swine fever virus, 3D illustration. Image Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock

African swine fever virus, 3D illustration. Image Credit: Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock

Since 2014 there has been a steady rise in cases of swine fever across Europe. This however was limited to the Eastern nations, Baltic States and Poland and Germany remained the major pork producer without swine fever fears. Germany has helped the eastern European nations to keep the infection under control and prevent spread.

Humans are not susceptible to this strain of swine fever say the Belgian health authorities. The AFSCA and the SPW on Thursday in a joint statement said, “The fight against the disease is not a public health issue but rather it is a challenge for animal health and economic sustainability.” They are thus trying to stop the spread of this infection across pig farms. African swine fever can lead to severe hemorrhagic or bleeding among the affected pigs that usually leads to death of the animals. All pigs affected need to be slaughtered and properly disposed since there is no known cure for this infection yet. Around 140,000 pigs had to be culled in Romania in late August when this infection was detected. Romania is Europe’s second-largest pig farm.

Denmark has planned to build fences along Germany borders to prevent entry of African swine fever. No cases have been detected there so far. Danish Environment and Food Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen has said in a statement earlier, “In case of an outbreak of African swine fever, the export to non-EU countries will shut down.”

The French farm Ministry said in a statement, “The confirmation today of the presence of the virus in Belgium (in the west of the EU) represents a new progression of the disease, which requires an adequate response given the considerable economic interests at stake for the French agri-food chain.” Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert called for restrictions on hunting activities and also urged for increasing surveillance of livestock as well as wildlife. The surveillance is to be ramped up in four administrative counties bordering Belgium, Travert said.

Meanwhile there have been 14 outbreaks of the African swine fever across China in the past month. The disease was first reported in Shenyang, the capital of Northeast China’s Liaoning province. This is close to the Russian border where the infection is spreading for some years now say authorities. At present there are no vaccines against the infection and awareness can prevention of spread are the only measures of control say experts.

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