Estonia Lifts Temporary Ban on Lithuanian Pork, Establishes 'Buffer Zone' ({{commentsTotal}})

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After a period of four days when the country's borders were closed to Lithuanian pork products, the Veterinary and Food Board lifted the ban yesterday and established a buffer zone in southern counties as fears of African swine fever, an agricultural disease, spread.

After a first-ever case of the African swine fever was reported in Poland, setting off a wave of animal destructions in nearby countries, the Estonian Veterinary and Food Board announced temporary protective measures effective July 24, Postimees daily reported. But the ban was lifted on Monday after assurances were received regarding the supply chain of what little Lithuanian pork products there were in the country.

Most supermarket chains reported only a scant few products. They had not started destroying merchandise as they were waiting to see whether the European Commission approved the temporary ban, Postimees reported.

The Veterinary and Food Board had taken swift action the previous week.

"In connection with the suspicion that African swine fever (ASF) has spread to areas on the territory of Lithuania where there was a lack of previously established protective measures for preventing the spread of ASF, pork of Lithuanian origin and products containing it are prohibited to be imported to Estonia as of July 24 as a cautionary measure," the agency said on its website.

No virus has been found in Estonia yet. But Latvia and Lithuania have reported cases, with Lithuania taking rush steps to destroy thousands of animals this week.

The case in Latvia was in a dead wild pig, in Ērģeme municipality near the Estonian-Latvian border towns of Valga and Valka. Latvia's veterinary board director says the diseases moving north at a speed of 300 kilometres a year, reported.

"We are working hard to keep the disease from spreading domesticated animals," the head of Estonia's Veterinary and Food Board, Ago Pärtel, told Postimees.

The buffer zone established on Tuesday covers parts of Valga and Viljandi counties. "The buffer zone means that hogs that move outside the zone are subject to additional conditions," said Pärtel on Tuesday - only pigs that were raised on the same farm or were kept there at least 30 days and underwent a lab test within 15 days of being shipped out can leave the farm.

The disease affects domesticated and wild pigs, has an incubation period of 3-15 days, has a near 100 percent mortality rate in its acute form, and there is no vaccine or cure. Humans and other animals do not contract the disease but can transmit it. The virus remains viable in frozen meat for years and in animal remains, it can survive for months.

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