Wed, 05 Aug 2020

Irish farmers told to beware African Swine Fever

Conor Trindle
27 May 2019, 04:38 GMT+10

DUBLIN, Ireland - African Swine Fever is spreading across the world with serious consequences for pig farmers, meat processors and exporters in the affected countries.

On Friday, Ireland's Agriculture Minister Michael Creed issued a warning about the risk African Swine Fever poses to the pig industry in Ireland; and what Irish people and visitors to Ireland can do to prevent the introduction of this very serious disease into the country.

Creed advised that "while we have some advantages in that we are an island, there is no room for complacency here." The Minister emphasised that the disease is not a threat to human health and meat is completely safe to eat but an outbreak of the disease would have an enormous impact on the pig industry. Ireland has almost 1.7 million pigs and pig meat exports were worth €666 million last year.

In terms of preventing the introduction of this disease into Ireland, Mr Creed advised that "the virus that causes ASF is quite virulent and can spread by accidental acts of individuals, in particular  inappropriate disposal of waste food." The virus can survive for months in pork and pork products including cured meats such as ham and salami. The Minister is urging Irish people and visitors to Ireland not to take the risk of bringing meat products into Ireland from affected countries.

"Don't bring back your sandwich; don't bring back your salami," the Minister warned. The minister reminded all those who keep pigs, even one or two pigs in their back garden "not to feed waste food that contains meat or meat products to pigs. A simple ham sandwich, salami or meat product could bring this disease to our doorstep and it would be devastating," he said.

Only persons registered with the department and issued with valid pig herd numbers are allowed to own or trade in pigs.  All those who keep pigs are reminded not to allow anyone to bring meat products onto their premises or to come in contact with their pigs while wearing clothes they were wearing on hunting trips or visits to pig related businesses in affected countries.

"Working together we can keep this serious disease out of Ireland. We can protect our pigs, our farmers, our businesses and our rural communities," Creed said.

What is African swine fever and what impact does it have?

- African swine fever (ASF) is a viral disease of pigs and wild boar that is usually fatal. The disease can result in devastating losses for pig farmers and the pig industry. In Poland, Lithuania. Latvia and Estonia alone, the loss to the export industry has been estimated to be in the region of $961 million.

- The disease poses no risk for humans or other species. Pigs become infected by sniffing the carcasses of dead pigs, by eating feed products that contain the virus, or by coming in contact with clothes or boots that farmers, hunters and others have been wearing while handling infected pigs.

- There is no cure or vaccine availablefor ASF and the disease is spreading across the world1. Within the last two years the disease has spread to nine previously unaffected countries in Europe and Asia2, including China, a country estimated to have more than half a billion pigs - over half of the world's total pig population. Over 1 million pigs have been culled in China alone to date in an effort to halt the spread of this deadly disease.

- Ireland is free of African swine fever. However, we cannot be complacent. It is vital we act together to keep this disease out of Ireland for the sake of our pigs, our pig farmers and our Agri-food Industry3. Everyone has a role to play.

What can be done to stop ASF getting into Ireland?

- Although ASF does not affect humans and meat is safe to eat, the virus can survive for months in pork and pig meat products including cured meats, hams, sausages and salamis etc. If pigs eat food waste that contains infected meat it will cause an outbreak of the disease. For this reason, waste food must never be fed to pigs.

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