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African swine fever found in wild boar in Italy

10th Jan 2022 / By Alistair Driver

In a major new development in the spread of the deadly pig virus in Europe, African swine fever (ASF) has been confirmed in a wild boar in Italy. 

Italy ASF outbreak OIE

Tests confirmed the disease in a dead boar in Ovada, in the province of Alessandria, about 120 km south west of Milan in the north of the country, the regional government said in a statement on Friday.

The Piedmont regional government has asked city mayors to stop hunting following the discovery, while the government is also raising its surveillance of wild boars and hog farms and increasing biosecurity measures on farms, Reuters reports.

"As in the case of the (COVID-19) pandemic, the African swine fever emergency must also be addressed by appealing to everyone's collaboration," said Piedmont's health deputy, Luigi Icardi. "Piedmont health system is working alongside operators in the sector to prevent the circulation of the virus and protect swine farms."

International animal health body, OIE, has confirmed the positive test, which followed the discovery of a dead wild boar. It has also confirmed that it is ASF genotype 2 that is reported, the same strain currently circulating in Europe and that has been doing so since 2007, and distinct from the strain that has been endemic in the Italian island of Sardinia since 1978.

It has also been reported in two further wild boar carcasses have been found in Piedmont and in Isola del Cantone in the province of Genoa, with samples from them being tested for ASF. 

The origin of the outbreak is currently unclear, but the new case represents another huge geographical leap for the virus, a long way south of recent cases in the likes of Germany and Poland and west of cases in a number of eastern European countries. 

While the regionalisation approach will apply to EU trade, Italy is now likely to face the suspension of pork to a number of key third country markets, as happened to Germany after the discovery of ASF in wild boar in September 2000. The German and wider EU sector is still feeling the impact of the ongoing ban by China. 

It will be interesting to see whether Italy looks to mirror the deal France has just secured with China, which ensures a regionalised approach to exports in the event of an ASF outbreak in France.