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Keeping African swine fever out of the UK pig herd

14th Sep 2018 / By Alistair Driver

Confirmation of African swine fever (ASF) in Belgium is the latest development in a worrying trend that has seen an escalation in cases in Europe in recent months. 

The discovery of ASF in wild boar in Belgium represents a big leap of the virus into western Europe and brings it worryingly close to the UK. The Belgian authorities are attributing this spread to 'leftover food being left behind by travellers from infected areas’.

In July and August there had been a rapid escalation in particular in Romania, including in some of the country's largest pig farms, resulting in 140,000 pigs being culled. This prompted the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) to raise the risk level of infected imports reaching the UK to 'medium', on the basis that the UK has imported small volumes of frozen pork recently.

Prior to news of the Belgian case, APHA maintained that the ASF to the UK pig population remains 'low', however. To ensure this remains the case, the agency, along with industry bodies like the NPA, is continuing to remind all pig keepers of the steps they need to take.


waste food

The key messages include: 

  • All pig keepers and the public must ensure pigs are not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products, thereby observing the swill feeding ban
  • Feeding of meat products, including swill, kitchen scraps and catering waste, to wild boar or feral pigs is also illegal
  • A campaign to highlight the dangers of swill feeding and more information can be found on this link
  • All pig keepers should ensure that visitors to your premises have have not had recent contact with affected regions
  • Anybody returning from the affected EU member state should avoid contact with domestic pigs, whether commercial holdings or smallholdings, areas with feral pigs or wild boar, until they are confident they have no contaminated clothing, footwear or equipment.

The symptoms 

  • Pig keepers and vets should remind themselves of the clinical signs for ASF and images. Photos and descriptions of clinical signs and pathology of ASF can be viewed here

African swine fever symptoms

  • Although mortality in infected animals is almost 100%, the initial rate of ASF spread in a pig farm can be slow, therefore the possibility of ASF should be considered even for single pigs with haemorrhagic lesions, lethargy, skin discolouration or petechiation and high fever
  • Pigs suspected to be affected with African or classical swine fever must be reported immediately to APHA - see for more information.

The NPA's briefing on African swine fever can be viewed here

A poster for pig keepers summarising actions they can take can be downloaded here

ASF poster 2

Contingency plans

While we must remain optimistic that we can keep the virus out of the UK, the NPA is urging all pig producers to consider their contingency plans in the event that the virus does make it here. This would result in the imposition of movement controls and other restrictions.

You can read the Government’s strategy for controlling ASF here

NPA comment

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies, said: "The health of our pigs is fundamentally important to our sector.

"A notifiable disease outbreak would not only needlessly result in the loss of many pigs and annihilate our burgeoning export market, but would significantly impact on countless families, their staff, local businesses and tourism for months.

"Feeding illegal food waste, however harmless it might seem at the time, is just not worth the risk."

waste food 4