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
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