German Vets Tighten Resolve to Keep out African Swine Fever

GERMANY - As further cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) are reported almost daily in eastern Europe, the German veterinary association has voted unanimously to pass a resolution aimed to keep out dangerous animal diseases. Farmers and hunters, meanwhile, are working together to control the wild boar population.
calendar icon 10 October 2014
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The devastating impact that an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) would have in Germany was the topic at the recent Assembly of Delegates of the Bundestierärztekammer (BTK; Federal Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons). A resolution on the subject was adopted unanimously by the delegates from all 17 provincial veterinary chambers.

The resolution was passed as a reflection of the major concerns of the veterinary profession about the current ASF situation, particularly in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. The threat of the ASF virus entering Germany grows daily.

An extremely resistant virus, the ASF virus can survive for several weeks in chilled meat and in frozen meat for decades, according to the BTK. Even in cured and smoked goods like salami, the pathogen can survive for months.

Through food waste and the meat of undetected infected pigs discarded at motorway service areas, car parks or thrown away carelessly, the disease can be easily transmitted to native wild boar.

Professor Theo Mantel, BTK president, explained that for these reasons, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food launched a multilingual poster campaign in February, warning of the dangers of African swine fever and calling on travellers not to throw away any food waste.

He added that this was an important step in communication the dangers but that the message had not reached all travellers.

BTK says that the risk is now high that the epidemic, which started in Georgia in 2007 will reach Germany. If that happen, the consequences would be devastating, according to veterinary experts.

Professor Mantel added that the pig population cannot be protected because no vaccine is available. The only way to combat the infection would be to cull entire herds, which would in itself pose a animal welfare and ethical issues.

In addition, the economic losses to pig farmers would be dramatic and it would destroy thousands of agricultural livelihoods, he added.

BTK added that the ASF virus cannot be transmitted to humans.

Farmers and hunters work together on wild boar control

Meanwhile, German farmers and hunters are working together to control the wild boar population as the risk of spread can be reduced, among other things, by keeping the wild boar population as low as possible.

The corn harvest, currently in progress, is a good time to hunt intensively, according to the national farmers association (Deutsche Bauernverband; DBV) and it is cooperating with the hunters association (Deutsche Jagdverband; DJV) to agree the timing and locations so that appropriate preparation and safety measures can be put in place.

The organisations also agree on the importance of early detection of African swine fever.

DJV Vice President and veterinarian, Dr Wolfgang Bethe said that any suspicion of the disease should be reported immediately to the local veterinarian and that all restrictions that prevent the effective and widespread wild boar hunting in Germany should be lifted.

This disease should not be taken lightly, said the DBV and DJV.

Picture above: C. Pfister, BTK

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