European Commissioner: African Swine Fever becoming regional problem

The African Swine Fever epidemic is becoming a regional problem, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said in an interview with Bulgarian National Television.

“The virus is fast and deadly,” Andriukaitis said.

“So far, we do not have a vaccine or other measures to treat it other than euthanasia of infected animals. Therefore, Bulgaria must take the preventative measures that we have agreed on and organise an information campaign. It’s not about personal interests and political games. We are all already responsible,” he said.

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a virus that infects domestic pigs and wild boars. Infected animals get high fever and internal bleeding. More than 90 per cent of infected pigs die, mostly within a week, according to an article by Deutsche Welle, entitled African Swine Fever: What you need to know.

The disease is transmitted through contact with infected blood or carcasses of animals that have died from the disease. The virus can remain in them for months or even years. Scientists say humans cannot be infected.

BNT reported that the ASF epidemic in Bulgaria’s northern neighbour Romania was continuing, with at least 400 outbreaks confirmed since the beginning of 2019. More than 400 000 pigs in Romania have been culled.

Romanian authorities have asked for help from Vietnam, which is developing a vaccine that has been tested and is believed to be effective against the infection. However, experts are skeptical of the claims, BNT said.

Authorities in the Republic of North Macedonia, another of Bulgaria’s neighbours, are to begin farm inspections, to build awareness of farmers of the signs of ASF and to detected any suspected outbreak.

There are about 200 000 pigs on farms in North Macedonia.

“There are clear rules, when the disease is suspected, pigs within an area three km from the onset of the infection are destroyed, the head of North Macedonia’s Food and Veterinary Agency, Zoran Atanasov, told local media.

In Bulgaria, compulsory culling of domestic pigs has been ordered in 23 out of 28 districts in the country.

Bulgaria is to receive 2.8 million euro to combat ASF and has applied for 11 million euro compensation for actions already taken to quell the disease in areas where ASF was confirmed.

Of Bulgaria’s previous reported stock of about 550 000 to 600 000 pigs, so far about 130 000 have been culled or are to be because of confirmed outbreaks of ASF, including at a number of large industrial pig farms.

Voluntary culling of domestic pigs has proceeded in places, but elsewhere in Bulgaria there are continuing protests by owners of smallholdings resisting the pig culling order.

Greece has banned imports of pork from Bulgaria and at the Bulgarian-Greek border crossings, checks have been stepped up to prevent pig meat products crossing the border. Similar measures are in place at Bulgaria’s borders with Romania and with Serbia.



The Sofia Globe staff

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