African swine fever (ASF) moving closer

The virus was brought over from Africa to Georgia way back in 2007. To date, there is no vaccine against it. Although the virus is not a threat to humans, it quickly leads to death in feral and domestic pigs. Humans are thought to be the main source of transmission, probably through carelessly throwing away infected food leftovers (e.g. in rest areas), which facilitates/triggers the spread of the disease. The virus has spread along highways from Georgia via Russia and the Baltic States all the way to Poland and the Czech Republic.

Many experts assume that it is only a question of time before ASF arrives in Germany. Germany’s pork market is dependent on exports. Germany’s own needs are covered to over 120%, which means that the additional production has to be sold on via the global market. An outbreak of ASP in Germany (just one case being reported would be sufficient) would lead German exports to third markets to collapse and/or dwindle completely. Even exports within the EU would be hit. In addition, demand at home would fall as a result of uncertainty. Prices would fall substantially if ASF were to break out in Germany. Individual pig farmers would have to slaughter their entire herd if even a single pig was infected. This could push some farmers to bankruptcy. In the event of an outbreak of ASF in Germany, the cost to the German farming industry would run into billions.

At the heart of efforts to fight ASF − bearing in mind an extremely high density of wild boar in Germany − is a reduction in the population of wild boar through hunting. In addition, however, there should be greater efforts to educate people. The biggest threat of introduction of the virus is through humans. Farmers, the authorities and hunters must work together. The focus in this respect should be on early detection and the implementation of suitable preventative measures.

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