UK increases ASF risk level to medium
The British Government has raised the risk level of African swine fever (ASF) entering the country from "low" to "medium" due to deteriorated biosecurity situation in Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic and Belgium, where new cases are reported constantly.
The risk assessment released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is talking about the danger that the disease could spread to the UK pig population from the European Member States via human-mediated routes.
This includes the movement of infected or contaminated meat products, which are then left in areas where wild boar can access them and the introduction of the virus into domestic pig farms with low biosecurity. Defra briefing stresses that tracing meat products that are not commercially produced, such as homemade sausages and hams. is difficult in the EU, where free movement of people and free circulation of products are binding principles.
“This means unless stricter controls are placed on the production of products, it will not be possible to prevent further incursions into unaffected areas. The risk lies with the lack of certainty regards the size of the restriction zones and the effectiveness of the measures taken within. The constant changes in the status of different zones are evidenced by this and therefore meat products from these regions must be regarded with this in mind. The risk is therefore dependent on the robustness of official controls. Therefore, the risk level for the entry of ASF into the UK has been increased to MEDIUM with a medium level of uncertainty, which implies risk managers will need to consider more options for risk reduction,” Defra says.
Passengers, including hunters, and transporters are seen as high factors of risk in spreading the disease. From all the Members States, Romania is posing the biggest threat, according to the document. "At present, the EU control measures in place in the northeastern Member States are being adhered to and are preventing spread within the domestic pig sector. Occasional spillover events are still occurring and there is concern that given the large wild boar population and the lack of available and effective control measures for such a population (ie vaccination) the disease will persist in these areas. Of greater concern is the area where there is a high level of backyard herds becoming infected but only a few wild boar cases, which suggests different transmission pathways are involved and a general lack of biosecurity. Only Romania is in this situation. With up to ten new outbreaks reported each day, culling and testing capabilities will be stretched. Spillover into commercial pigs may occur and the slow moving nature of the infection and high infectiousness of pigs before they show clinical signs means the possibility for an infected pig entering the food chain without being identified is possible", is mentioned in Defra's risk assessment.
The UK pig population consists of almost 4 million animals (10,000 premises) in commercial pig farms, not including non-assured or small holdings or backyard pigs and the likelihood of an outbreak is considered to be at 20% right now. Nevertheless, the reasonable worst-case scenario is mentioning at least 20 to 30 farms affected and damages valued at GBP 35-70 million (€ 38 - 77 million).
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