African swine fever found in Jõgeva pigs
After a nine-month lull, the African swine fever (ASF) virus has again been found in Estonian pigs. The Estonian Veterinary and Food Board found the disease in five out of six pigs on a farm the Puurmani municipality of Jõgeva County.
The exact cause of the infection would be determined by further studies, deputy director general of the agency Olev Kalda said. The outbreak site had been quarantined, all the pigs would be put down, and the building disinfected thereafter, he added.
The first ever case of ASF in Estonia was a wild boar found dead in September 2014 in the Southern county of Valga. The diagnosis was confirmed by the European reference lab in Spain. The first instances of the disease in domestic pigs were diagnosed in July 2015.
To date more than 22,000 pigs had to be killed in Estonia in connection with ASF. The disease has been found in farmed pigs in the Lääne-Viru, Valga, Tartu, Viljandi, Jõgeva and Võru counties. Prior to the Puurmani case, the last case was registered on Sept. 29 last year.
The newly registered case will have negative consequences for all Estonian pig farmers, as it could significantly prolong trading restrictions on the whole territory of Estonia, the umbrella organization of pig farmers said on Friday.
“In the best case the Jõgeva region will now remain a third-level restriction area. In the worst case, this puts the whole third zone under threat,” head of the Estonian Pig Farmers Association Urmas Laht told BNS, explaining that the new outbreak would postpone the lifting of the restrictions by a year.
"We have received a positive signal from the EU that after one year has passed since the latest ASF diagnosis, the third zone would be either minimized or abandoned altogether. That would have happened in September. But now the disease has been found again, and because of that it's not clear how it will end," Laht said.
He said he himself as well as the association had large pig farms in the Jõgeva region. “This distressing occurrence is a vivid demonstration that not everyone has realized yet how precarious the pig farmers’ situation in Estonia is at present," he added.
Large producers call on government to buy out small pig farmers
The association also wants the government to buy up all domestic pigs kept on small farms, and set up a special commission to check and counsel pig farms on biosafety requirements in order to contain the spread of ASF.
“In the present situation it is essential for the government to buy up the pigs kept on small farms with up to 50 animals, and also pigs kept in households as pets. As we saw last year, small farms are unable to ensure the high biosafety measures required to fight the disease, and because of that they pose a threat to bigger farms,” Laht stated in a message to the government.
He also calls for the Ministry of Rural Affairs to establish an additional commission tasked with checking farms’ biosafety levels, and advising them on taking further measures where necessary.