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African Swine Fever In Pigs

3 August 2020

African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to spread westwards through Europe with much of eastern Europe affected. Cases have also been found in Germany and more recently ASF has been confirmed in wild boar in Northern Italy. In addition, the countryside has become a more popular location for leisure purposes as COVID restrictions ease and we begin to enter spring and summer meaning that pig producers and keepers in Scotland must remain vigilant.

While the current risk of African Swine Fever (ASF) being introduced to the UK through contaminated or infected products remains at medium,1 it is vital that all pig keepers and staff check their biosecurity measures and tighten where necessary.

ASF is spread to pigs by the following ways-

  • Pigs eating infected pig meat or meat products
  • Contact with infected pigs or wild boar, faeces or body fluids
  • Contact with anything contaminated with the virus e.g. vehicles, clothing or footwear
  • Bites by infectious ticks

Remaining vigilant and observing good biosecurity is vital to keeping the disease out. Reviewing and tightening practices where applicable are also important. This applies both on farm and also to those who have travelled to and from affected areas. Those travelling to affected areas should on their return avoid contact with any pigs and avoid habitats where wild boar are present until they are confident they have no contaminated clothing, equipment or footwear and should not take home any pork products.  All clothing, footwear and equipment should be disinfected before entering pig areas. All pig keepers should also ensure that visitors have not had contact with affected regions1. Pork products are also prohibited from pig sites as part of Quality Meat Scotland Pig Assurance scheme standards.

While all pig keepers should be fully aware that it is prohibited to feed any catering or kitchen waste or pork products to pigs it is also important that the general public are aware of this – not only is this illegal but is also the most likely potential cause of infection. Any food waste should be disposed of correctly to minimise the risk from pigs either eating infected food material or indeed it being carried by birds.

All pig keepers, producers, smallholders and their staff should remind themselves of the clinical signs which include1

  • high fever
  • loss of appetite
  • haemorrhages in the skin and internal organs
  • death in 2-10 days on average

Other signs can include

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • red or dark skin, particularly on the ears and snout
  • discharges from the eyes and nose
  • laboured breathing and coughing
  • abortions
  • weakness
  • unsteady gait

Some photos of infected pigs can be found here

The European Food Safety Authority has produced an ASF animation as a guide.

The Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre (SPDCC) has also prepared the following video.

African Swine Fever is a notifiable disease and if suspected in Scotland, your vet and local APHA Field Services Office should be contacted immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.  Advising the Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre (SPDCC) at the same time may also facilitate sector response.

Sources. 1.  Animal Plant Health Agency

The following links contain useful resources (posters etc) for display from AHDB Pork

Other information

George Chalmers, and Jill

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