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First case of African swine fever in wild boar in Germany

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The African swine fever (ASF) virus was detected in a wild boar found dead in Brandenburg close to the Polish border. The state laboratory Berlin-Brandenburg detected specific genome sequences of the ASF virus in samples that were taken on the site. The national reference laboratory for ASF at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) on the island of Riems confirmed the case on 10 September 2020. This is the first case of ASF in Germany.

Samples were taken from bones of the almost completely decomposed carcass. Therefore, it is to be assumed that the disease was already introduced into Germany some weeks ago.

The risk of virus introduction into Germany was assessed as high by the FLI. The geographical distance to the nearest confirmed ASF-case in Poland is only 30 km. Due to the proximity to the German-Polish border of approx. 6 km, it is very likely that the virus was introduced by a migrating wild boar. However, an introduction by people through contaminated pork meat cannot be excluded. The responsible local veterinary authorities must now initiate all necessary measures. ASF has been spreading in the Asiatic-European area since 2007 and reached the Eastern border of the European Union in 2014. The spreading of ASF over longer distances is often due to human activities such as inappropriate disposal of contaminated food. This was the cause of incursion into the Czech Republic and Belgium where ASF was successfully eradicated. The construction of fences contributed significantly to this success. Brandenburg also erected a protective fence at the border to Poland in December 2019.

It is now essential that farmers carefully respect operational biosafety requirements. This still provides the best protection against an introduction of the virus into livestock populations. The legal basis is the regulation on hygienic reqirements in pig holdings (Schweinehaltungshygieneverordnung).

Nationwide, it should be continued to intensively test fallen wild boar on ASF, wild boar found dead should be immediately reported to the responsible authority. As a rule, this should be done via a phone call. Marking and geo-referencing of the site facilitate subsequent proceedings. A picture of the site and the carcass would also be desirable. The app for the reporting of fallen animals (Tierfund-Kataster, https://www.tierfund-kataster.de/tfk/tfk_erfassung.php) allow for quick and convenient reporting.

It remains fundamental to dispose of potenitally contaminated from pork derived products such as sausages and meat in a way that wild boar and pigs have no access to it. Vehicles, clothes, shoes and equipment that might have been contaminated for example during hunting should be imperatively cleaned and disinfected.

The responsibility for the implementation of the epidemic control measures, especially the setting up of restricted zones and observation areas, as laid down in the regulation for the protection against ASF (Schweinepestverordnung) lies with the federal states. In some federal states, practial trainings to control ASF have taken place. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture organises regularly task force meetings to discuss the situation and current issues on epidemic control measures.

Worldwide, research is carried out to develop a vaccine agains ASF. However, it will not be available in the foreseeable future. The reservoir for ASF virus is the wild boar population, the pathogen is transmitted from pig to pig through blood and droplets. The ASF virus affects only pigs (wild boar and pigs) and cannot be transmitted to humans. Therefore, the consumption of wild boar meat remains harmless to humans.

All information on ASF, recommendations and suggestions for action are available on the FLI homepage under > Animal Disease Situation > African Swine Fever:

Map: ASF in the Baltic States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary 2020, as of September 10, 2020 (© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut)

Map: ASF in the Baltic States, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Hungary 2020, as of September 10, 2020 (© Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut)