Belgium's ASF-Infected Herd Too Close for Comfort, France Says

Wild pigs
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Authorities say it’s a matter of time before African swine fever (ASF) makes its way across Belgium’s border into neighboring France. Despite government intervention to curb the disease spread in Belgium’s wild boar herd, reports say infected wild pigs could be as close as 3 kilometers from the French border, which is the distance the disease can travel in one month in infected wild populations.

The French have stepped up surveillance on their side of the border and built fences at the border to keep wild boars from entering the country.

Walloon Agriculture Minister René Collin says control measures are still being applied in the 69,000-acre (28,000-hectare) ASF vigilance zone. As of Dec. 17, 594 wild boars had been collected, including 499 in the infected perimeter. Of these, 205 carcasses were found to be positive for virulent virus.

The ASF vigilance zone won’t have specific biosecurity conditions nor restrictions on traffic, forestry work and game hunting (apart from wild boar). However, getting rid of all boars in the area and transporting them to two collection centers will be necessary. 

People with a hunting license in the affected area will organize at least three collective hunting days in January and February to help reduce the wild boar population. Hunters play an important role in controlling and eradicating this deadly disease, according to a fact sheet titled “Control of African Swine Fever in the EU: The Key Role of Hunters.” 

The EU and national authorities in the affected countries are taking a wide range of measures to control and eradicate the disease in cooperation with hunters and farmers. They want hunters to consider the possibility that wild boars are infected with ASF. Because of this, they provided five guidelines for hunters:

1.    Collaborate with the competent authority in the finding and reporting of wild boar carcasses.
2.    Clean and disinfect your equipment, clothes, vehicle and trophies on site and always before leaving the area. 
3.    Eviscerate shot wild boar in the designated dressing area of the hunting ground. 
4.    Contribute to the gradual reduction of the wild boar density in the areas not yet affected by the disease, including targeted hunting of adult and sub-adult females. 
5.    Do not feed wild boar throughout the whole year.

“Hunters can make the difference – for better or worse – as they may increase or reduce the spread of the disease,” the fact sheet says.

Although humans are not affected by the disease, authorities encourage hunters to help stop the spread by avoiding contact with infected animals and carcasses, avoiding contact with anything contaminated by the virus (e.g. clothing, vehicles, other equipment), and avoid feeding the animals with meat or meat products from infected animals (e.g. sausages or uncooked meat) or garbage containing infected meat (e.g. kitchen waste, swill feed, including offal).

For more information, view the fact sheet.

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