Following the launch of a government-backed campaign to raise awareness of the risk that bringing pork products into the UK from abroad could spread African swine fever, farmers and food suppliers are being urged to remain vigilant and seek veterinary advice if they notice signs of the disease.
Stephanie Young, CTSI Lead Officer for Animal Health & Welfare, commented: “Disease-free status is fundamental to the UK economy and we support the swine fever awareness campaign.
“We advise anybody who keeps pigs as livestock to ensure that they remain vigilant and adhere to the rules, not to feed waste food to pigs and to ensure that they have good biosecurity.
“We also urge any farmer who does see signs of illness in their animals or has concerns about swine fever to seek veterinary advice immediately.
“It’s a case of being vigilant, being aware that the disease is out there and ensuring that everyone has a part to play in preventing its spread.”
While it is not a threat to human health, African swine fever is fatal to pigs and can be spread through contaminated meat as well as live animals.
Cases of the disease have recently been confirmed in Asia and mainland Europe, leading to culls of pigs and disruption to imports. The disease has not yet appeared in the UK.
Lord Gardiner, Defra’s Minister for Biosecurity, said: “While there has never been an outbreak of African swine fever in the UK, we are not complacent and already have robust measures in place to protect against animal disease outbreaks.
“It is essential all tourists and holidaymakers do not bring to the UK any pork products to protect the UK’s high biosecurity.”
Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “Keeping African swine fever out of the UK is one of my top priorities. As we have seen around the world, its impact on pig farmers and the wider pork industry has been devastating.
“The virus survives incredibly well in pork meat and can survive for months in smoked, dried and cured meats and likely years in frozen meat.”