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African Swine Fever could be on its way to UK after ‘worrying development’

Industry leaders raised concern after reports of the disease in wild boar in Hungary suggested it was picked up outside of the country’s detection zone.

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African Swine Fever could be on its way after ‘worrying development’ in Hungary

Pig producers have been warned about an increased chance of African Swine Fever (ASF) descending on the UK.

 

Industry leaders prompted the call after reports of the disease in wild boar in Hungary suggested it was picked up outside of the country’s detection zone.

 

And while pig imports from Hungary only represented about 0.64 per cent of all pork products to the UK in 2017, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) said it was ‘of note’ that 4.5 per cent of lorries from mainland Europe through British ports are Hungarian registered.


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APHA’s pig veterinary lead Anna Williamson said: “This is concerning as it means that either infection in wild boar nearer the border has been missed, or that the case results from other means of transmission such as the illegal movement of infected pigs or feeding of infected pork/ pork products, as was suspected to be the case for the geographical jump to the Czech Republic in 2017.

 

“This continued westward spread of ASF emphasises the need to raise awareness amongst all pig keepers across Europe of the need for them to take stringent external biosecurity precautions to reduce the risk of introduction.”

 

According to the APHA, this first-of-its-kind case in the country was picked up in the central region of Heves despite ongoing checks in eastern counties bordering Ukraine and Poland since 2016 and border checks on pork products in the rest of the country from 2017.

 

Crippling exports

The area will now become a restricted zone.

National Pig Association (NPA) chief executive Zoe Davies agreed it was a ‘worrying development’ as she warned the virus had the capability to ‘leap vast distances, despite surveillance and checks in supposedly high risk areas’.

 

She said it could take years to free the industry from ‘crippling export restrictions’ if the virus ever got into the UK’s feral pig population.

 

“ASF is a real threat to the UK,” she said. “The discovery reinforces once again the need for vigilance when it comes to biosecurity on farms, particularly in cases where visitors or workers come from high risk areas of Europe.

 

“We continue to remind all pig keepers that it is illegal to feed food waste to pigs, as this is one of the most likely routes for infection to reach the UK pig herd.”

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