German farmers have been ordered to make a series of crisis measures after discovering the country’s first case of African swine fever (ASF).
The arrival of the highly contagious disease, found in a wild boar cadaver close to the German border with Poland in the state of Brandenburg, is a devastating blow to farmers who have been in pain for years to keep it at bay.
While ASF is not an immediate threat to humans, it can be quickly spread by animals and humans and is generally fatal in farm pigs and wild boars.
A threatened area will now be declared for several kilometers around the area where the discovery was made and will include land in neighboring Poland. The nearest boar farm is 7 km away. The area around 3 km from where the cadaver was found is expected to be closed.
A strict hunting ban has been ordered in the region of Spry-Neis district, as well as a ban on corn harvesting within a 15-km radius. Farm events and folk festivals involving pigs are to be canceled and dog walkers banned from walking their dogs in the area.
Farmers face the prospect of a ban on pork exports to non-EU countries. Asia is a large market for German pig farmers, worth billions of euros.
Following the March discovery of the virus in western Poland, about 10 km from the German border, the spread of ASF in Germany was considered only a matter of time. As a result, Brandenburg officials erected a 120-km-long electric grazing fence in an attempt to prevent wild boars from crossing the river there.
Brandenburg State Consumer Affairs Minister Ursula Nonmaker said it was unclear how the dead pigs became infected. “We can’t say … whether it came from Poland at the border, or was infected with sausage meat,” he said. “We must now make every effort to prevent it from spreading.”
Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Julia Kloecker, carried out the discovery after the federal research laboratory confirmed the infection on Thursday. “A wild boar has been found in a district,” he told reporters in Berlin.
So far no decision has been made as to whether to kill the pigs or not.
Germans have been urged to stop feeding wild boar, which has become a frequent presence in and around the German capital, as well as in states such as Brandenburg and Thuringia. Bringing animal products from Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland or the Czech Republic to Germany is also banned, where ASF is well established. Picnickers are urged to take the remains of meat products indoors, rather than to throw them in such bins that are often scrapped by animals and birds and evacuated.
Undercooked or raw meat products such as dry-cured ham and salami are the main sources of infection. But vehicles, humans and dogs can also spread the virus.
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