BELGIUM, Luxembourg. More than two years after the first case of ASF in a wild boar in the southern Belgian province of Luxembourg, pig farmers there are once again allowed to house animals.
A decree to that effect was signed last week by Belgian Chief Veterinarian Dr. Jean-François Heymans of the Federal Food Safety Authority (AFSCA). The European Commission had already approved the lifting of the regulated zones on November 20, 2020, while the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on December 21, 2020, restored Belgium to the status of "free from African swine fever (ASF)" in all pigs. The nearly 70 pig farmers in the former infection zone who were forced to kill their approximately 4,100 animals between Sept. 29 and Oct. 2, 2018, are now allowed to reoccupy the pens. In addition, the loading of pigs from different farms of origin into the same vehicle is again allowed for both slaughter and breeding pigs, subject to the appropriate biosecurity rules. It is also allowed again to unload a load of breeding pigs in different farms.
However, vigilance is still required, according to ASCA. The agency pointed to the many new cases of ASF in Eastern Europe and Germany. Although the disease is now considered eradicated in Belgium, strict surveillance and control measures would continue to be maintained in the south of the province of Luxembourg to prevent any resurgence of ASF within the feral pig population. These included maintaining game fences and trap-and-trace, including sampling. Measures to prevent the too-rapid reintroduction of feral pigs would only be lifted gradually according to a predefined strategy, ASCA said. In the Belgian infection area, ASF had been detected in a total of 833 wild boars; on August 11, 2019, the last fresh infected carcass was discovered, after which only bones were found from animals that had died earlier. Apart from Belgium, only the Czech Republic has "eradicated" ASF in Europe; in other countries, the epidemic continues and in some cases spreads to domestic pig populations.