Swine fever fear in Europe

Shoot­ers head­ing for the Con­ti­nent to hunt boar have been warned to be on the look­out signs of dev­as­tat­ing African swine fever in the wild pig pop­u­la­tions

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - NEWS -

An out­break of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Europe is threat­en­ing wild boar pop­u­la­tions and has led to up­dated ad­vice for trav­el­ling hunters to pre­vent them from spread­ing the dis­ease.

ASF is a se­ri­ous and highly con­ta­gious vi­ral dis­ease of pigs, which leads to fever and in­ter­nal haem­or­rhag­ing. Al­most all pigs and wild boar that con­tract the dis­ease die. The virus orig­i­nated in Africa and first reached Europe in 1957. It was sub­se­quently erad­i­cated from main­land Europe in the 1990s, but it reap­peared in Ge­or­gia in 2007 when pigs were fed on waste food im­ported from Africa.

In Septem­ber the dis­ease was found in wild boar in Bel­gium and the in­fected an­i­mals were iso­lated. Sci­en­tists be­lieve that hu­mans are most likely to have ac­ci­den­tally in­tro­duced the dis­ease to the for­est where the boar live. A spokesman for the Bel­gian food safety agency said that the out­break “could be the con­se­quence of in­tro­duc­ing left­over food left be­hind by trav­ellers from in­fected ar­eas”.

ASF is read­ily trans­mit­ted be­tween wild boar and do­mes­tic pigs and poses a se­ri­ous threat to the liveli­hoods of pig farm­ers. In China — which has had a re­cur­ring prob­lem with the dis­ease — more than 200,000 pigs have been culled in at­tempt to limit its spread. The dis­ease has al­ready had a se­ri­ous ef­fect on the Bel­gian pork in­dus­try, with 4,000 do­mes­tic pigs culled in the area of the re­cent out­break.

The virus is both highly con­ta­gious and very sta­ble in the en­vi­ron­ment, even sur­viv­ing in the de­cay­ing flesh of dead an­i­mals. It is also eas­ily spread by hu­man ac­tiv­ity in­clud­ing on shoes, ve­hi­cle tyres, waste food and po­ten­tially even on the coats of dogs. Blood and in­ter­nal or­gans from in­fected an­i­mals are a par­tic­u­lar threat.

The highly con­ta­gious na­ture of ASF poses a se­ri­ous chal­lenge to wild boar hunters. BASC has is­sued ad­vice to any­one trav­el­ling to coun­tries with ASF to hunt boar, in­clud­ing not to bring home meat from the hunted an­i­mals; to en­sure the proper dis­posal of any waste ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing the pluck and gral­loch; and to thor­oughly clean and dis­in­fect any­thing that might have come into con­tact with in­fected an­i­mals, in­clud­ing cloth­ing, footwear, guns and knives

ASF is not thought to be present in the UK yet. How­ever, BASC ad­vises boar hunters to keep a keen eye open for any boar act­ing un­usu­ally or any­thing un­to­ward with boar car­cases. Signs can in­clude loss of ap­petite and en­ergy, lead­ing to an ema­ci­ated pig, dis­charge from the eyes and nose, cough­ing or laboured breath­ing and an un­steadi­ness when walk­ing. Any an­i­mals show­ing th­ese symp­toms should be im­me­di­ately re­ported to vet­eri­nary au­thor­i­ties.

“Blood and in­ter­nal or­gans from in­fected an­i­mals are a par­tic­u­lar threat”

It is thought that left­over food dis­carded by those trav­el­ling from af­fected ar­eas is spread­ing African swine fever across Europe’s wild boar pop­u­la­tions

All equip­ment used in hunting wildboar must be cleaned thor­oughly

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