The first cases of African Swine Fever (ASF) in wild boar have been confirmed in the German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. A dead male wild boar piglet of 20kg, found during a hunting session, turned out to be positive, after which another 3 animals tested positive.
With the find, wild boar in all 3 German states bordering Poland have now been infected with ASF. Earlier, the states Brandenburg and Saxony got infected as well. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern hit the news last week because this wild boar infection was preceded by an infected swine farm, where just over 4,000 pigs had to be culled.
The virus was found in a young wild boar. The infected piglet on the picture was found in the Czech Republic, a few years ago. - Photo: Petr Satran, Czech State Veterinary Administration
ASF in wild boar at unusual spot
And just like was the case with the farm in this state, these wild boar cases emerged on a somewhat unusual spot, as it appeared in an area that is nowhere near other known outbreak spots. The carcass was found in the district Ludwigslust-Parchim, in a forest in the Ruhmer Berge. On the map below it is the westernmost marker.
With regard to route of infection, the first impression is that it has “humans” written all over it. As the crow flies, the finding is 150km away from the nearest other finding places in wild boar in Brandenburg state, all pretty close to the border with Poland. The distance to the infected farm is also 60km. As the finding was relatively close to the motorway 24, running between Berlin and Hamburg, it looks like a classical case of the “infected pork sandwich” that got thrown out of the window. In the whole of Germany, at every resting place, signs are put up warning for ASF, and asking drivers to carefully dispose of their garbage.
Even in 2015, warning signs could already be found at the motorways in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern asking drivers to carefully dispose of garbage. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek
What is worrying perhaps most about this finding is its proximity to the pig-dense state Lower Saxony, only 45km.
Difficult day after ASF confirmation
The infection was confirmed by the German reference laboratory Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) and was also reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). In a press release, state minister Dr Till Backhaus spoke of a “a difficult day,” saying, “Now exactly what we wanted to prevent has happened. Now it is important that we work through the case thoroughly with all the authorities involved. The authorities in Brandenburg are also already involved, as the restricted zones to be set up will extend into the neighbouring federal state.”
The hunters who had found the initial infected piglet sent samples of all their hunted animals for checking. The area has been conducting intensive surveillance for ASF since 2018. Only in the Ludwigslust-Parchim district, 128 wild boar carcasses have been sampled this year, mostly from animals that got shot or were road kill; also 1,503 pigs got tested so far.
The 3 other cases were found in an
Individual ASF case or not?
Dr Backhaus said, “The main question here is whether the individual case that has been identified remains or whether we are dealing with an event on a larger scale.” To that end, intensified surveillance will follow with the use of drones and search dogs.
Wild boar infections in Germany
With the finding in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the number of wild boar cases in Germany has exceeded 2,800. On the basis of data gathered so far, October 2021 has been the worst month so far, with 344 infected wild boar reported to the OIE. The previous record was for July 2021 with 309 cases. Complete figures for November are yet to be submitted.
Over the last 5 complete months (June-October), the total number of ASF cases in wild boar in Germany have exceeded those in Western Poland. On the Polish side that can be explained because of the seasonal character of the virus, with high amounts of casualties in winter and lower amounts in summer. In Germany, however, the seasonality of the outbreaks is not reflected in the number of reports as there has been an upward trend during summer.
ASF virus getting closer to Czech Republic
Also the Czech Republic may have to start worrying that the virus will soon be getting into the country. ASF virus has been found relatively strongly over the last few months in Lower Silesia province in Poland, and the virus is bound south there. In October 2021, a record of 72 infected wild boar were found in that province, numbers were never that high there. The nearest case to Czech border was only 18 km away.