In DepthAnimal Health

Deadly virus threatens European pigs and boar

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Science  22 Dec 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6370, pp. 1516-1517
DOI: 10.1126/science.358.6370.1516

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African swine fever was detected in Lithuania in 2014, marking the arrival of the dreaded disease in the European Union. Since then, it has spread throughout the Baltic states and far-eastern Poland, wreaking havoc on pig farms. The virus poses no health threat to humans, but it is highly lethal for pigs and infected herds must be culled. Now, the disease has jumped farther west, spread almost certainly by contaminated pork. The virus was detected this summer in the Czech Republic, and last month it showed up around Warsaw, heightening the alarm in nearby pig-producing countries, particularly Germany and Denmark. The spread of the virus in wild boar, a new phenomenon, poses additional problems for export-oriented farms, because even a single detection in the wild can result in trade bans by countries worried about accidentally importing the virus. It’s also possible that wild boar can spread the disease to pigs and that hunters will accidentally transport infected meat. With a vaccine likely 10 years away, researchers are trying to figure out how the deadly disease persists in wild boar and what can be done to reduce the risk of introduction.