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ASF Belgium: Hopes for ASF-free status soon

Belgium prepares to submit a request to regain its status of being free from African Swine Fever (ASF).

The Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) indicated that it is preparing for an application to be once again acknowledged as free from African Swine Fever (ASF). According to a spokesman, no application has been sent off yet, but the organisation hopes to be able to do so in the second half of the year.

ASF-free status in October

A country can file for a return of the ASF-free status in case the virus has not been found for 1 full year. Should the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Commission agree to the Belgian request, that could lead to an ASF-free status in October, provided that no new cases would turn up in wild boar.

ASF was only found in wild boar in Belgium. - Photo: Shutterstock
ASF was only found in wild boar in Belgium. - Photo: Shutterstock

Interpreting wild boar carcasses

In March 2020, the latest notification was given of a positive test in a wild boar carcass. The virus, however, was found in bones from an animal that had died months before. In the view of the FASFC, this case therefore cannot be interpreted as a sign that ASF is still circulating in wild boar. Similarly, the last 6 positive findings (between October and March) were all found in ‘older’ bones. With each of the reports of these findings, the Belgian authorities explicitly mentioned that what was found were bones of animals had been dead for months, see Figure 1.

The last ‘fresh’ positive carcass was discovered on August 11, 2019. The FASFC is hopeful that that the responsible global and European animal health authorities will share its opinion that the virus in fact has not been observed to circulate in Belgium since mid-August 2019.

Hoping Belgium can be declared free from ASF

Wouter Wytynck is advisor animal breeding at farmer’s organisation Boerenbond. He hopes that Belgium will be declared free from ASF as soon as possible. He applauds the way the government in Wallonia (the southern part of Belgium) is taking care of the matter. He is careful though – as there is a chance, albeit small, that the virus might pop up again.

Céline Tellier is Wallonia’s minister for Environment, Nature, Forestry, Rural Affairs and Animal Welfare. In an interview to news agency ANP, she said, “We receive positive signs indicating that the ASF crisis is over.” ASF entered the Belgian province of Luxembourg in September 2018. In total 833 wild boar have been found to be victims of the viral disease. No pig farm in Belgium ever got infected with the virus.