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UK pig sector concern as Sweden confirms first ever ASF case

Sweden’s first-ever case of African swine fever (ASF) has been confirmed, representing another major leap for the virus and a renewed concern for the UK pig sector.

The case in Fagersta, which is about 200 kilometers north-west of Stockholm, involved seven wild boars, with more tests currently being conducted.

Sweden’s Veterinary Institute said: “At present, we do not know how the infection got in, but it is a long jump from the nearest infected area in Europe. “We therefore assume that it has happened through humans and not wild boar.”

The UK’s National Pig Association (NPA) said the case represented “another major leap for the virus, particularly with Sweden separated by sea from other infected countries”. The risk of ASF entering Britain from the human-mediated pathway and moving products of animal origin remains at ‘high’.

The virus can be spread via pork or by carrying it on shoes or clothes, tools, or vehicles.

News of Sweden’s first-ever ASF case follows soon after the virus was detected on farms in northern Italy for the first time.

After initially being suspected on 17 August, ASF was confirmed on a small farm in the Pavia province in the pig-dense Lombardy region, where it had already been found in hundreds of wild boar.

It was then confirmed on two more farms close to each other, near Zinasco, in the same province, by the end of August.

According to local reports, on one, with around 1,000 pigs in total, hundreds of pigs died in the fortnight before ASF was confirmed.

ASF virus is now present in four regions in Italy after being detected in wild boar in January 2022.

There has also been a marked increase in ASF outbreaks in the Balkans, as well as Latvia, Poland, Russia and Ukraine during the months of July and August.

Commenting before the latest outbreaks in Italy and Sweden, APHA said it was “a considerable increase in the range of ASF”.

“Initial outbreaks in both countries were reported in domestic pigs, mostly in smallholdings close to borders with known ASF-affected countries,” the agency said.

“Since then, long-distance spread to domestic pigs across Bosnia and Herzegovina has occurred, and ASF-infected wild boar have been detected in Croatia in regions distant to the initial detected infected area.”

The potential high risk for non-commercial imports of pork products from ASF-affected areas remains of high concern, APHA said.

It added there was evidence from inspections at GB ports suggesting that there were several vehicles illegally bringing pork meat into the country from some regions of the EU affected by ASF.

It follows recent research by the AHDB which warned that disease outbreaks were currently costing the British pig industry over £850 million a year.

This figure represents more than two times the approximate value of the industry.

Earlier this year, Red Tractor warned that the UK would be ‘devastated’ if African ASF were to reach its shores.

The chair of the pig sector of Red Tractor, Stewart Houston urged farmers to take action to help keep the deadly pig disease out of the country.