Cause For Concern
Practical Pigs|Winter 2017

Michaela Giles explains the dangers posed to our pig population by the threat of African Swine Fever, as this worrying disease creeps ever closer to the UK

Michaela Giles

There surely can’t be many UK pig keepers still unaware of the potential threat posed by the prospect of African Swine Fever (ASF) entering the UK even though, as things stand, we remain free from the virus that causes the disease.

There’s plenty going on to keep everyone informed and up to speed on developments, and any of you who regularly use the internet to help feed your passion for pigs, can’t fail to have noticed that all the major, pig-orientated websites are now publishing regular updates on the spread of ASF through mainland Europe

In addition, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has organised a working group of experts to help tackle the disease, while the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) has just launched a refreshed #cateringwasteban campaign. This is intended to highlight the absolute need to keep this potentially devastating disease out of the UK, by not feeding any waste that has passed through a domestic or catering kitchen. Also, to further emphasis the seriousness of the risk, Defra recently raised the risk level of ASF entering the UK.

Historical problems

There have been numerous, documented outbreaks across Europe that have linked the spread of ASF to certain human activities. However, the disease first found its way into Europe (Portugal) from Africa way back in 1957, thanks to international catering waste being fed to wild pigs near Lisbon airport. However, this and most other cases in Europe pre-1995, were controlled and subsequently eliminated from domesticated pig and wild boar populations. The one exception was in Sardinia, where the ASF virus remains (endemic) as the pigs are primarily kept completely free-ranging, living alongside wild boar.

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