Defra puts pig farmers on alert for African swine fever

An increase in reported outbreaks of African swine fever in pigs in Europe has prompted Defra to remind farmers it is a notifiable animal disease.

Outbreaks have been reported in 12 countries, including Poland, Belgium and Romania. So far, there have been no reported cases in the UK.

Defra says: “In affected areas the disease has been confirmed in wild boar, as well as on farms, smallholdings and in pet pigs.”

Agencies, including Defra, are currently monitoring the spread of the disease to assess the potential risk to pigs in the UK.

Signs of African swine fever include high temperature, loss of appetite, lack of energy or sudden death. Other signs can include vomiting, diarrhoea, dark or red skin, runny eyes or nose, poor breathing or coughing and weakness.

Experts point out there is more than one strain of the disease and that severe strains are nearly always fatal.

Defra says African swine fever is highly contagious. It points out the disease can spread in healthy pigs – if they eat infected meat or meat products. The virus is known to be able to survive for long periods of time in cooked or frozen meat.

Other means of spreading the disease include contact with infected pigs or their faeces or body fluids. In addition pigs can contract the flu through contaminated clothing, vehicles and other equipment.

Farmers are being urged to wear protective clothing and to make provision for those visiting the farm. The cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles and equipment is being encouraged in areas where pigs are kept. Farmers should dispose of leftovers or waste food in secure bins that pigs or wildlife cannot access

If you suspect African swine fever in one or more of your pigs you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to report a suspected outbreak is an offence.

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