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Home > News > ASF jump to new area in Italy sparks concern, as UK human spread risk remains 'high'

ASF jump to new area in Italy sparks concern, as UK human spread risk remains 'high'

30th May 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The recent discovery of a new ‘jump’ of the African swine fever virus in Italy, probably as a result of human spread, is a concerm, according to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

APHA ASF map May 23

The agency has issued a reminder that the risk of the virus entering the UK via human-mediated remains high. 

ASF was recently confirmed on a domestic pig farm and in four wild boar in a newly-affected region of southern Italy, in Calabria. This is the third region of the country to be affected since the first incursion in January 2022, after Piedmonte and Lazio.

In its latest update on ASF in Europe, APHA states: “The recent detection of four cases of ASF in wild boar in the Calabria region in southern Italy is concerning. One case was found over 10km away from the five others, and could indicate that the disease is present and widespread in the region.
“It is currently unclear whether there is an epidemiological link to other affected areas within Italy, or if this is a new incursion from outside the country.

“These latest cases in southern Italy represent a new ‘jump’ in disease distribution, which is the sixth such event in Europe since January 2022. The last jump was into western Germany in July 2022.

“This is concerning as it would appear that these cases have arisen as a result of the movement of infected pigs or wild boar.”

It is suspected that disease has been introduced via human-mediated routes, since there is a major road trade route through the area. “Given the above, we consider that the risk of entry of ASF virus in live animals and products of animal origin (POAO) from affected countries, remains at medium (occurs regularly),” APHA added.

Non-commercial imports

APHA also described the potential high risk for non-commercial imports of pork products from ASF affected areas as of ‘high concern’. Evidence from inspections at our ports suggest that ‘there are several vehicles illegally bringing pork meat into Great Britain from some regions of the EU affected by ASF’.

“Some of these instances involved large quantities of porcine POAO, some of which appear to be home-slaughtered and arrive in Great Britain from an undisclosed origin as a non-commercial import, with poor levels of biosecurity and food hygiene.

“Therefore, the risk of ASF entering Great Britain, from the human-mediated pathway and moving porcine POAO, is considered to remain at HIGH (occurs very often).”

Other developments

Other notable developments in the spread of ASF since APHA’s latest report in mid-April include:

  • There have been 153 more cases in wild boar in the north-west near Genoa, in Italy, the majority of which have been within the Restriction Zones, and on further case in Lazio, near Rome.
  • ASF has been detected in a wild boar outside of the existing restriction zones in the Czech Republic,.
  • ASF has been confirmed in domestic pigs on one premises in Greece, the country's first outbreak of ASF in domestic pigs since February 2020.
  • Romania has reported 11 outbreaks in domestic pigs across the country, all of which were in backyard premises. The largest of these was on a premises in the north-east near the border with Ukraine and Moldova, which contained 288 pigs. Romania also reported 24 cases of ASF in wild boar, comprising of 29 animals.
  • There have been 20 further reports of ASF in wild boar, comprising of a total of 84 animals, in Germany, all in existing zones in the Saxony and Brandenburg regions, close to the border with Poland.

APHA said it remains a ‘critical time’ for the spread of the virus throughout Europe as well as into other regions through human-mediated routes such as introduction from non-commercial imports (including illegal imports) or fomites.

The agency issued a reminder that, since September,  it is no longer legal to personally bring in pork or pork products weighing over 2 kilograms unless they are produced to the EU’s commercial standards. 

It has urged pig keepers to remain vigilant, ensure they continue to adhere to the swill feeding ban ensure that any visitors or seasonal workers have not had any recent contact with pigs, pig
products, pig premises, wild boar (including hunting) or equipment associated with such
activities in the affected regions in Europe or other affected parts of the world.