The risk of African Swine Fever (ASF) being introduced into the UK pig herd has been raised from very low to low (rare but does occur).

The UK’s veterinary practices are tasked with raising awareness of ASF amongst their pig-keeping clients and emphasising the need to minimise the risks of the virus to their pigs.

The risk level has been raised because of reports of ASF in dead wild boar in the Czech Republic, the first case in Romania in backyard pigs and a westward spread in Poland. The detection in Czech wild boar represents a significant geographic jump into a new region which is likely due to illegal movements or feeding on contaminated products.

The disease is highly contagious and can spread by pigs eating infectious meat or meat products, contact with infected pigs, their faeces or body fluids and contact with contaminated people, clothing, vehicles and other equipment.

The main clinical signs are fever, loss of appetite, lack of energy and sudden death with few signs beforehand. Other signs can include vomiting, diarrhoea, red or dark skin (particularly on the ears and snout), swollen red eyes, laboured breathing, abortions, still-births and weak litters.

Owners can help prevent ASF by never feeding their pigs kitchen waste and by practising strict biosecurity including ensuring that staff do not attend other pigs, staff and visitors wear clothing and boots dedicated to the farm and no meat or meat products are brought onto the farm.

Owners with concerns should call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.