GERMANY, Bonn. Since the first case of African swine fever in a wild boar in Germany, more than 800 additional infected animals have been added. Farmers and hunters criticize disease control. There are new detections outside the core zone.
Even half a year after the first detection of African swine fever (ASF) in a wild boar in Brandenburg, the chain of new infections and the discovery of infected carcasses is not breaking. On the contrary, the epidemic situation has intensified in the second week of March, and there were again also fallow game finds outside the previous core zone. According to the Animal Disease Information System of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI), 41 new ASF cases were added in Brandenburg and Saxony last week up to March 12. The total number of detections in Germany thus rose to 823, including 758 in Brandenburg and 65 in Saxony.
As reported by the responsible Brandenburg Ministry of Social Affairs on March 11, one animal was found in the Spree-Neiße district near Zelz on the eastern side of the fixed wild boar barrier along the border with Poland. In addition, a carcass near Werbig in the Märkisch-Oderland district tested positive in the endangered area; in Frankfurt an der Oder, there was a second finding of a dead ASP wild boar in the northern part of the city, inside a temporarily erected electric fence. "Especially the findings along the Oder and Neisse rivers show how strong the disease pressure from Poland still is. In all cases, we immediately start an intensive trap-and-trace search around the discovery sites to determine the possible spread," explained the head of the Brandenburg ASP crisis team, Anna Heyer-Stuffer. According to her, the restriction zones in the district of Märkisch Oderland will be adjusted, i.e. expanded. The discovery site will be immediately fenced with an electric fence, which will later be replaced by a fixed fence.
In a half-year review after the first outbreak of ASF, Brandenburg's Minister for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection, Ursula Nonnenmacher, emphasized that it had been possible to reduce an entry of the animal disease into domestic pig herds. She said this showed that measures in fence construction and fallow game searches were working. "However, the disease pressure from Poland is not easing," the minister noted. For example, she said, there are currently findings again at the fixed ASP fence on the border with Poland. "As long as there are these findings, Germany cannot become disease-free, with all the consequences, especially for pig farms and agriculture," Nonnenmacher stressed. She therefore renewed her call for the establishment of a "white zone" with fixed fences on both sides of the Oder and Neisse rivers, where all wild pigs would have to be removed.
"We will continue to ask the federal government to resume talks with Poland because of a common white zone along the border," the minister said. According to her, Brandenburg began building a permanent fence along the border in September 2020 in the south of the country, where the disease pressure from Poland is the strongest. Of a total of about 255 km, about 220 km have been completed, she said. Gaps still exist in the districts of Uckermark and Märkisch-Oderland. The second white zone in the Oder-Spree and Dahme-Spreewald districts has also been completed in the meantime and the removal of wild boar has begun.
The Brandenburg Farmers' Association (LBV) supports the call for a white zone on the border with Poland, but also voiced criticism. "The latest development in the number of cases impressively shows that the measures taken are not working to the extent that the responsible ministries portray," LBV President Henrik Wendorff noted. He called on the state to "live up to its responsibility, because it is not internal administrative decrees that combat an animal disease, but only immediate orders." The current case in Frankfurt an der Oder makes it clear, he said, that regardless of the measures taken, cases of ASF can occur again and again on German territory before the fence on the Oder and Neisse rivers, and that Germany will therefore not be free of ASF.
Wendorff demanded to consider the topic ASP more strongly on European level and to offer the governments concerned support with the fight. The LBV also pointed out that pig farmers in the endangered areas and core areas were still waiting for financial aid announced in December. It also said that there were still major uncertainties about the cultivation of certain crops in the core areas and white zones with regard to legally secure implementation of the rules by farmers.
Hard into the court with the epidemic fight in the country went the national hunt federation Brandenburg (LJVB). The state government has not succeeded in limiting the spread of ASF and the ASF crisis team is derailing events, the association criticized. LJVB President Dr. Dirk-Henner Wellershoff accused Nonnenmacher of coming too late with the white zone on the Polish border; hunters had already demanded such a barrier in 2019. The existing fence was anything but wild boar-proof, as various photographs proved. Damage often takes days to close, he said. "If the national emergency had been declared at the beginning of the ASF epidemic, as demanded by the LJVB, personnel and material resources would be available more quickly," Wellershoff said.
He added that it was also completely incomprehensible that the recommendations on the part of the hunting community for disease control had been rebuffed by the head of the supreme hunting and forestry authority responsible for animal disease control measures, Dr. Carsten Leßner. "With this failure in disease control, the responsible persons must seriously face the consequences," Wellershoff demanded. The state hunting association therefore demands the resignation of the acting persons and a reorientation of the ASP crisis team in Brandenburg.
Due to the current ASP outbreaks, the Free State of Saxony must expand the restriction zones in the district of Görlitz. As the responsible Ministry of Social Affairs announced, the new territorial boundaries of the endangered area and the buffer zone are defined in two general orders. The endangered area is thereby increased from 322 km2 to 989 km2; the buffer zone then covers 790 km2. "We are forced to this expansion of the restriction zones because of the large number and location of ASP-positive wild boar carcasses," explained department head Petra Köpping. The fencing of the endangered area will take place immediately, she added. "While we continue to see no spread of the animal disease out of the previous area. But we need a safe distance from the ASF-free areas," the minister explained. That is why, she said, the expansion of the areas where fallen game searches are now starting again is taking place, in order to get an accurate picture of the epidemic situation.
In view of the active epidemic in Brandenburg and Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia's Agriculture Minister Ursula Heinen-Esser once again called on the general public to act with extreme caution in connection with ASF. "We must contain ASF by taking precautions together," the minister stressed. For example, she said, the proper behavior of people when traveling can prevent the spread of the animal disease. In addition, biosecurity measures on farms keeping pigs must be strictly adhered to. Intensive hunting of wild pigs could also prevent the spread as a preventive measure, she said. "In the event that ASF should spread further westward, North Rhine-Westphalia is well positioned and immediately ready for action," Heinen-Esser noted at the same time. A large number of precautionary measures had already been taken, she added.
Also in Poland no all-clear can be given with the ASF happening. The highest veterinary authority of the country confirmed in the first week of March 52 new proofs of the animal disease with altogether 122 wild pigs. Last week, another 86 infected animals were added up to and including Thursday, bringing the total number this year to 748. From the German point of view, the spatial concentration of wild boar ASF cases in the west of the neighboring country is worrying. According to official data, 44 findings were reported in the first week of March in the Lubuskie Voivodeship alone, which directly borders Brandenburg. Two other cases involved dead wild pigs in western Pomerania, not far from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
The risk of further introduction of the disease into Germany must therefore continue to be classified as high. However, Europe-wide, Hungary has the most ASF wild boars with 968 confirmed virus cases so far this year. In Poland and Hungary, as well as in Germany, the domestic pig population has so far been spared. In contrast, Romania already reported 272 cases in farm pig herds in 2021. Small private herds are often affected there; however, last week another case was reported on a large commercial farm. At Curtici Agroindustrial in Arad on the western border with Hungary, around 20,000 pigs had to be culled because of ASF.