Belgium has confirmed a small outbreak of African swine fever near the border with France, marking the arrival of the disease in western Europe.
Belgium’s department of agriculture and fisheries confirmed in a statement that two cases of African swine fever had been found in wild boar in the municipality of Etalle.
The department stressed that the disease does not affect humans but said officials were working to “prevent the spread of the virus through wild boar…and to pig farms”.
“Belgium is still free from the disease in terms of pig farms,” it said.
African swine fever causes haemorrhages in pigs and is usually fatal, with the most severe strains of the disease known to kill nearly 100% of those infected.
There is no cure for the disease, meaning that infected pigs must be slaughtered.
The virus has been present in Eastern Europe for around five years, with Romania last month reporting its worst outbreak since World War II, forcing it to cull over 120,000 pigs.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said he has called a meeting with Belgian authorities on Monday to work on a prevention strategy.
“Raising the level of awareness is essential both among people involved in farming activities but also in the general public,” he wrote on Twitter.
The outbreak has caused alarm in neighbouring France, with the ministry of agriculture issuing a statement saying it represents “a new progression of the disease… [with] considerable economic stakes for the French agri-food chains.”
Minister Stéphane Travert called for zoning measures, restrictions of activities like hunting and enhanced surveillance of livestock and wildlife in Belgium to prevent the spread of the disease.
The EU is collectively the world’s second-largest pigmeat producer after China and the largest exporter, with most of its pork industry concentrated in Germany, Denmark, France and Spain.
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