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African Swine Fever – are we aware of the risks?

Sylvaine Lacrosse BVetMed MRCVS, Molecare Veterinary Services

Did you know it is illegal to feed catering waste, kitchen scraps, meat or meat products to farmed animals? This includes production and backyard pigs!

The reason for this legislation is to prevent the spread of diseases such as African Swine Fever, where the risk of the disease entering the UK even featured on Countryfile back in January.

As the name suggests, African Swine Fever (ASF) is present in Africa, endemic to many of the countries south of the Sahara. However, ASF has been spreading across Eastern and Central Europe, and with the recent confirmation of ASF in wild boar in Belgium (August 2018), this has emphasised the threat of ASF entering the UK. The most likely route of transmission into Belgium would have been through infected fomites or meat products, something as simple as a discarded ham sandwich!

What is African Swine Fever?

ASF is an incredibly infectious virus and is very resistant to harsh environmental conditions. Luckily however, the virus is not infectious to humans.

Clinical signs include:

-High fever

-Loss of appetite

-Haemorrhages of the skin and internal organs

-Death within 2-10 days on average

How is ASF transmitted?

-Direct contact between pigs

-Fomites including vehicles, clothing and implements

-Certain species of ticks are biological vectors

-Feeding of Infected Meats

Traces of pork meat can transmit ASF as well as other serious diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease and Classical Swine Fever. The diagram below simplifies what is and isn’t acceptable with regards to feeding your pigs in order to keep your herd and the national herd safe from such diseases.

If everyone in the country could practice good biosecurity, we can hopefully prevent the disease from entering the national pig herd and if it were to enter, we could efficiently contain its spread.

Use dedicated clothing and boots for your premises

-Only allow disinfected vehicles and equipment onto your premises

-Educate your staff on the disease risk especially with regards to bringing in meat products from affected countries

-Don’t bring meat products on farm to avoid accidental access to pigs

-If rearing outdoor pigs, put up signage telling people not to feed the pigs due to risk of spreading disease

Unfortunately no vaccine exists to combat this virus. With ASF being highly contagious and often fatal, if the disease were to enter the UK, it would have a devastating effect on the health of our pigs and on domestic and international trade of pigs and pork. This is why we need to work together to feed our pigs the right food and practice good biosecurity.

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