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Disease control ‘best practice’ key to limiting ASF risks

Sharing best practice in fighting African swine fever (ASF) is critical to preventing the spread of the disease in Europe, say food safety experts.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said measures including the drastic depopulation of female wild boar and safer disposal of contaminated waste is vital to tackling the disease, which has been spreading in Eastern Europe.

And they said farmers need to take a closer look at their biosecurity measures to ensure their herds are as protected as they can be.

In a study analyzing the spread of the disease in Eastern Europe, EFSA said the virus had been found six countries after it was first identified in Belarus and parts of Russia in 2013.

The disease, which spreads through direct animal contact or contaminated food, was reported in wild boar in Lithuania in 2014, and in Latvia and Estonia later that year.

Since then the number of cases occurring in both domestic and wild boar have steadily grown.

Increased biosecurity measures were implemented after the first outbreak, EFSA said, including improved surveillance on pig farms and the use of wild boar repellents.

However, there is still more farmers can do, particularly on smaller units where biosecurity is thought to be lower than on larger units.

Most outbreaks in farmed animals had been in small backyard herds, the report said, often where animals had been fed swill containing contaminated meat.

“Human-mediated spread is still an important constraint that needs to be urgently addressed,” the report added.

“[This should be done by] intensified awareness-building of all persons possibly in contact with infected wild boar or pigs of the different routes of spread of ASF, and the economic and ecologic consequences of the disease.”

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