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Europe continues to grapple with ASF

EFSA EFSA wild boar.jpg
While Denmark builds border fence, officials predict ASF spread into France, Germany, Austria, Finland and Slovakia in 2019.

While the African swine fever (ASF) situation in China has garnered global attention, European officials are stepping up their plans for dealing with the decade-long European outbreak.

Poland recently began a mass hunt for wild boars, and France is considering its own hunt along its border with Belgium, which has been dealing with ASF-infected wild boars since September 2018.

Denmark announced Jan. 28 that machines are ready to begin erecting a 70 km-long wild boar fence along its border with Germany to prevent ASF from entering the country, and the work is expected to last until the fall of 2019. So far, no cases of ASF have been reported in Germany in either wild boars or domesticated swine.

In March 2018, the Danish government and the Danish People's Party agreed on a number of initiatives aimed at preventing ASF spread. In addition to the fence, new hunting times have been introduced, allowing wild boar hunts around the clock as well as intensified efforts to hunt wild boar on state-owned and private land, according to a statement from Denmark's Ministry of Environment & Food.

“We have 11 billion good reasons to do everything we can to prevent African swine fever reaching Denmark, and now, we can finally get started on erecting our wild boar fence. The fence and our increased efforts to hunt wild boar will break the chain of infection so there is less risk of African swine fever spreading to Denmark,” Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, Denmark minister for environment and food, said.

Following a Jan. 28 European Commission Agriculture & Fisheries Council session that discussed antimicrobial resistance and ASF, European commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis (listen to his comments) said the commission had discussed Denmark's fence but noted that there was no scientific proof that such a move would have any effect on ASF spread; however, it is up to Denmark to decide if the fence should be installed.

Prior to the council meeting, a roundtable discussion on ASF spread was held Jan. 17 in Berlin, Germany, with representatives of Russia, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and France.

Rosselkhoznadzor — Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary & Phytosanitary Surveillance — said the participants reviewed the situation on the spread of ASF and a number of other animal diseases in Eurasia, discussed protective anti-epizootic measures taken in different EU countries and in Russia and evaluated the possibilities of trade in pig products under the current conditions.

Rosselkhoznadzor head Sergey Dankvert emphasized that since ASF had ceased to be a "purely Russian problem, mutual understanding with experts from EU countries and other affected countries has improved markedly."

Dankvert also said it is obvious that without developed information systems that allow tracing the movement of animals and products from the at-risk region in Europe and controlling the established parameters of regionalization and biosafety of individual establishments, it will be impossible to maintain a balance between trade interests and production safety objectives, the announcement from Rosselkhoznadzor reported.

The Russian agency said it is important to overcome the lack of coordination between the authorities when it comes to wild boar population control, especially in environmental protection zones and nature reserves, and it called for different authorities and territorial administrations to work together for the purpose of timely disposal of food wastes and dead animals, especially along highways.

Dankvert predicted that there is a risk that ASF will spread into France, Germany, Austria, Finland and Slovakia in 2019. In the east, he said ASF is threatening Vietnam and other countries of the Southeast Asia.

According to Rosselkhoznadzor, the roundtable participants welcomed the exchange of updated information with Russia and highlighted that such meetings contribute to strengthening trust and helping to manage the spread of ASF.

Rosselkhoznadzor said the participants supported strengthening scientific and technical interaction between the national research centers and agreed to share information and jointly seek means for safer trade.

The European Food Safety Authority also has an animated video on preventing ASF spread.


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