Pig pest reaches the West: African swine fever confirmed in Belgium

European authorities are on high alert and emergency measures implemented as African swine fever (ASF) has been identified in wild boar in the Belgian province of Luxembourg
calendar icon 14 September 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

The Belgian food safety agency, FASFC, has confirmed that two wild boars were found to be carrying the disease close to Étalle, a village in Luxembourg.

FASFC issued the following statement:

“Samples were taken directly and sent to Sciensano, who confirmed that the wild boars were carrying the virus responsible for ASF. Wildlife control and prevention measures within pig farms are now being implemented at the regional and federal levels, respectively, in a high-performance collaborative framework. Biosecurity in pig farms is essential and the FASFC ensures that it is permanently properly insured.

“The situation is taken very seriously by the various authorities and levels of power in Belgium and the measures are carefully put in place and monitored, given the potential impact for the livestock and hunting sectors. A national task force was set up in early 2018 in this context. The different levels of power will continue to work closely together to maximise the effectiveness of prevention and control measures."

Emergency procedures were established by Belgian authorities yesterday (13 September) and neighbouring countries have begun to implement their own disease prevention protocol.

The French Minister of Agriculture and Food has asked the authorities in the regions bordering Belgium to implement emergency ASF action plans, under the coordination of DGAL (General Directorate of Food) to prevent the introduction of the virus into France.

British authorities have already raised the risk level of ASF reaching the UK to ‘medium’ following earlier outbreaks in Romania. The National Pig Association (NPA) are also urging the public to take all necessary precautions to keep the virus out of the UK pig herd.

The source of the outbreak is yet to be identified but many past cases of ASF have been directly linked to the improper disposal of food-waste and feeding of contaminated to waste to domestic pigs.

The NPA issued the following guidelines for preventing the disease’s entry into your own pig herd:

  • Ensure pigs are not fed catering waste, kitchen scraps or pork products, thereby observing the UK swill feeding ban. Feeding of meat products, including swill, kitchen scraps and catering waste, to wild boar or feral pigs is also illegal in the UK.
  • Do not allow pig-meat products onto farms, for example in workers’ lunches.
  • Ensure that visitors to your premises have not had recent contact with affected regions.
  • Anybody returning from affected EU member states 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.
  • Familiarise yourself with the clinical signs of ASF and report any suspicious illnesses to your vet immediately.

If you are worried about any sudden illness in your pig herd, call your vet and check your clinical signs in the Disease Problem Solver

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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