A case of African swine fever has been detected in a wild boar in Italy, news agency ANSA said Friday, raising fears of a blow to the country’s meat industry. Highly transmissible and fatal for pig populations, African swine fever (ASF) does not present a risk for human health, but risks serious repercussions for pork producers.
Italy, with about 8.9 million pigs, is the seventh biggest pork producer in the European Union, representing an $9.1 billion industry, according to the agricultural association Confagricoltura.
ANSA said the case of the viral disease was detected after tests on the carcass of a wild boar in Ovada in the northern Piedmont region. The regional research body reported to have carried out the tests could not be reached for confirmation later on Friday.
African swine fever has existed in Africa for decades. In Italy, it has been endemic on the island of Sardinia since first appearing in 1978.
The disease spread to China, the world’s largest pork producer, in 2018, causing millions of pigs to be slaughtered to prevent an epidemic.
In Western Europe, the virus was reported in Belgium in 2018, prompting China to ban all imports of Belgian pork. After Germany confirmed its first case in a dead wild boar in 2020, China, Japan and South Korea, alongside Brazil and Argentina, also suspended German pork imports.
ANSA said the case in Italy had been referred to Italy’s health ministry, which in turn would notify the World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) and the European Commission.
In a December 3 situation report on the virus, the OIE said ASF has been reported in 32 countries in five different world regions since January 2020.
It has affected more than one million pigs and more than 28,000 wild boar around the world.
“The events observed in the last six months confirm the global threat of ASF, which continues to spread with serious impacts on pig production systems, animal health and welfare, as well as the socio-economic impacts on livelihoods, national food security and international trade,” the report said.
After Germany’s first case, Confagricoltura said Italy had activated a plan of surveillance and prevention approved by the European Commission since the beginning of 2020.