African Swine fever cases have been reported across Eastern and Central Europe in recent months, but are we at risk?
What is African Swine Fever?
African Swine Fever is a virus, which causes a haemorrhagic fever and a high mortality rates in pigs. The virus persistently infects its natural hosts, warthogs, bushpigs, and soft ticks of the Ornithodoros genus, with no signs of the illness. Some animals can die as recent as a week after initial infection. The first outbreak of the virus, outside of Africa, occurred in Georgia in 2007.
More recent cases have been reported lately, with cases of the virus identified in Poland recently. In November, two positive cases of the virus were reported in Wild boar found dead, 140kms from the Eastern Polish border.
More cases of the virus have also been now reported on the Western borders of the country, with densely-populated domestic pig populations now at risk. More cases of the virus have been identified in parts of Russia also, with reports of the fever in Russia’s Ural Mountain range.
The disease was identified in five regions in Siberia, including Irkutsk, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Tyumen and the Chelyabinsk regions. To fight the spread of the disease the Russian’s plan to build a special laboratory in the Irkutsk region, with millions of euros in investment promised.
Since the first outbreak of the virus in Russia, over two million pigs have already been culled. There were a total of 298 registered outbreaks in the country in 2017. Last year over 300,000 pigs were culled as a result, with no official numbers for this year yet released.
Areas in the Czech Republic have also been affected by the virus, with wild boar populations specifically affected. The Zlin region was the worst affected by the virus.
Could it affect Ireland?
We contacted Chairman of the IFA Pigs Committee, Tom Hogan, for an update on the situation. Tom confirmed to us that unless the outbreak makes its way into Denmark, that Irish pig owners should have nothing to worry about.
“It would be a worry should it come into Denmark, but they would have it under control” said Tom.
Mr. Hogan also added that the countries affected are those with high wild boar populations, unlike Ireland.
“There’s a high wild boar populations in these countries...and they are finding it difficult to keep them under control” he said.
When asked if there was any risk of the outbreak coming to Ireland, Tom replied “We wouldn’t think so”.
“We think the controls here are adequate ( to prevent an outbreak) and while there would be a worry it could cross into Denmark” he added.
“But they have their own stringent controls in place there” he assured us.
“We would be confident that there wouldn’t be any major risk of it coming here, but obviously it would be a disaster if it did” said Mr. Hogan.
Hogan had one last message for Pork consumers in Ireland, “We would be hoping that when people are buying pork products for Christmas, that they would be buying Bord Bia quality assurance ham” he concluded.