Den­mark moves to build a 70-kilo­me­tre fence to pro­tect its an­nual ex­ports of EU states go on a war foot­ing against African Swine Fever

Irish Examiner - Farming - - COVER STORY - Stephen Cado­gan

It’s called African Swine Fever.

But it’s now a ma­jor Euro­pean prob­lem, with fences go­ing up across the EU to keep it out.

Den­mark is the lat­est to go on a war foot­ing against this pig disease.

The gov­ern­ment in Copen­hagen has agreed with its Dan­ish Peo­ple’s Party par­lia­men­tary ally to pass a new law, al­low­ing con­struc­tion of a 70-kilo­me­tre fence along the bor­der with Ger­many, to keep out African Swine Fever (ASF).

Min­is­ter for Food and the En­vi­ron­ment Es­ben Lunde Larsen summed up the threat faced by his coun­try and other EU mem­ber states.

“I do not want to take any risk.

“We have an ex­port in­dus­try worth 11 bil­lion kro­ner [€1.5 bil­lion] an­nu­ally which could be put at risk.

“If African swine fever virus broke out in Den­mark, all ex­ports to third coun­tries would im­me­di­ately stop. “A fence will pre­vent po­ten­tially in­fected wild boar from run­ning across the bor­der, and help hunters to erad­i­cate all wild boar from Den­mark.” The coun­try is es­ti­mated to have 50-100 adult wild boars. The fence is planned to be 1.5 me­tres tall and sunk 50 cen­time­tres into the ground. Cat­tle grids or gates will be in­cluded. Den­mark has also an­nounced that night-time shoot­ing of wild boar will be per­mit­ted. Mean­while, a fence along Poland’s eastern bor­der is also mooted, to stop wild boar from mi­grat­ing and spread­ing ASF.

Pol­ish Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Krzysztof Jurgiel has said con­struc­tion of this fence will start in Septem­ber. “African Swine Fever is a huge con­cern for all of us,” said EU Com­mis­sioner for Health and Food Safety Vyte­nis An­driukaitis last week. That in­cludes Ire­land, with our Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture warn­ing ASF is one of the most im­por­tant and se­ri­ous dis­eases of do­mes­tic pigs. The acute form causes se­vere disease from which the ma­jor­ity of af­fected pigs die. There is no vac­cine.

But hu­mans are not sus­cep­ti­ble.

ASF has never oc­curred here; like the UK, we can hope

An EU vet­eri­nary emer­gency team is ready to de­ploy rapidly to ad­vise on con­trol of ASF out­breaks.

that be­ing sur­rounded by wa­ter will help to keep it at bay.

Once mostly found in sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa, it was con­firmed in Spain, Por­tu­gal and Sar­dinia in 1960.

It was erad­i­cated from Por­tu­gal in 1993 and Spain in 1995, but re­mains en­demic in Sar­dinia.

Lim­ited out­breaks have oc­curred in Bel­gium (1985) and the Nether­lands (1986). It was con­firmed in Ge­or­gia in 2007, and sub­se­quently spread to Ar­me­nia, Rus­sia, Be­larus and Ukraine. Traced back to scavenging pigs eat­ing in­fected meat at a port in Ge­or­gia, ASF spread through the east, due to fail­ure to di­ag­nose it quickly. Eastern Europe was hit in Jan­uary 2014, and ASF has been present in wild boar and some­times in pigs in Poland, Latvia, Lithua­nia and Es­to­nia ever since.

The virus ad­vanced into wild boar in the Czech Repub­lic, and back­yard pigs in Ro­ma­nia, last sum­mer.

The cur­rent out­break has re­sulted in the deaths of more than a mil­lion pigs. Once it in­fects do­mes­tic pigs or wild boar, al­most all of them die within days. There are also fears the virus could reach as far east as China, a ma­jor con­cern for a coun­try that con­tains half the world’s pigs.

Where ASF is con­firmed, EU leg­is­la­tion re­quires that all in­fected and ex­posed an­i­mals are killed, car­cases safely dis­posed of, premises dis­in­fected, and sur­veil­lance and strict con­trol be car­ried out on move­ments of pigs and pig prod­ucts.

Ir­ish farm­ers and their EU col­leagues are un­der notice to re­port im­me­di­ately to the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, if they sus­pect pres­ence of the disease.

Though there is no treat­ment or vac­cine, ASF can be suc­cess­fully erad­i­cated if the disease is de­tected early and con­trols are rapidly in­tro­duced.

EU Com­mis­sioner for health and food safety An­driukaitis says an EU vet­eri­nary emer­gency team is ready to de­ploy rapidly to “hotspots” to ad­vise on disease man­age­ment.

He says the gen­eral sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues to be ef­fec­tively man­aged, with ASF con­tained in rel­a­tively lim­ited ar­eas of the EU.

The begin­ning of 2018 saw three out­breaks in back­yards in Ro­ma­nia close to the bor­der with Ukraine (at­trib­uted to il­le­gal move­ment of in­fected pig meat), which the EU says were swiftly and ef­fec­tively re­solved and closed. Nev­er­the­less, the fences are go­ing up across Europe. The disease cur­rently ex­ists in Poland, the Czech Repub­lic, Ro­ma­nia, Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia and has re­cently moved closer to Den­mark, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment in Copen­hagen.

As well as a wild boar fence, Den­mark plans larger fines for il­le­gal food im­ports and fail­ures to clean an­i­mal trans­porta­tion ve­hi­cles prop­erly. Ger­many is­sued a de­cree last month to al­low hunters to shoot wild boars year-round, to stop the an­i­mals spread­ing ASF.

Poland has con­firmed 108 out­breaks of the virus since Jan­uary 2014.

“If

African swine fever virus broke out in Den­mark, all ex­ports to third coun­tries would im­me­di­ately stop. A fence will pre­vent po­ten­tially in­fected wild boar from run­ning across the bor­der, and help hunters to erad­i­cate all wild boar from Den­mark

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