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African swine fever nears German border

23rd Jan 2020 / By Alistair Driver

African swine fever (ASF) is getting worryingly close to the German border, he German Ministry of Agriculture revealed on Wednesday.

wild boar 5The latest case in wild boar was detected just 12km from the eastern German state of Saxony, further heightening concerns over the threat posed by the virus to the German pork sector.

The virus has been edging closer to Germany since it was discovered approximately 70km from the border in western Poland in November.

Poland recorded some 55 outbreaks of ASF in wild boar in December, including a series of cases close to the border.

Germany’s agriculture minister, Julia Kloeckner met her Polish counterpart Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski in Berlin this week and agreed new measures to try and contain the ASF outbreak in Poland and prevent it spreading to Germany.

According to Reuters, Germany is intensifying discussions with the Polish government about creating a ‘white zone’, fenced off to stop infected wild boar entering Germany, the statement said. The two countries are discussing whether Germany's civil defence force should help setting up fencing on the Polish side of the border.

Some German regional state governments have already started building fences along the Polish border.

As well as new fencing, measures discussed included a ‘drastic reduction in the wild boar density, for example through shooting as an effective preventative measure’.

Germany is one of Europe’s biggest pig producer and a major exporter of pigmeat. While its defences have held so far, the German Ministry acknowledged that there is ‘always a risk that the disease will spread to other EU countries due to the high infection pressure’.

“An incursion of ASF into Germany would have severe implications for the animals as well as for the economy. An incursion into the wild boar population would be critical, since possibilities to control the disease are limited,” the Ministry says on its website.

It stressed that it has been in ‘continuous contact’ with both the German federal states and the Polish authorities for a long time.

ASF in Europe

The latest update on ASF in Europe from the UK Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) shows that Romania (42) was the only country to report outbreaks in domestic pigs in the first half of December.

However, cases in wild boar were reported in nine countries, led by Poland (156), Hungary (77), Bulgaria (38) and Romania (38).

UK risk status

Commenting on the risk of the virus reaching the UK, APHA states: “The risk remains at medium for the entry of contaminated or infected products into UK at present.

“Border checks on passengers are paramount, as are publicity campaigns aimed at reaching the travelling public and reminding them that bringing back products of animal origin from outside the EU or from a region in the EU under disease restrictions is not allowed.

“Commercially produced products which can be safely traded in the EU will be labelled as such.

“Home produced products are a particular concern. Travellers from an affected area in the EU or anywhere in Asia and Africa must not bring back products of pig origin – including ham, sausages or pâté – or any equipment or other goods which could potentially be contaminated with ASF virus to the UK.

“Travellers from Asia and other third country areas who bring meat or dairy products can also face prosecution and a large fine. Disease can be spread by pig keepers and members of the public feeding catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products to their animals.

“It is illegal to do so. The risk of exposure to the pig population in the UK is still highly dependent on the level of biosecurity on individual pig premises but is still considered to be low. We will continue to monitor the situation.”