African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal disease of pigs. Despite preventive measures it continues to spread to new areas and new countries, including within the EU. It is feared that the disease will spread to Finland, for example with pork products that people bring in, animal transportation equipment or wild boars.
Should the disease spread to Finland, it would cause large economic losses for pig farms and the whole meat industry due to the destruction of animals, cleaning and disinfection of premises and interruption of international trade. African swine fever does not infect humans and it has never been found in Finland.
The virus responsible for the disease survives well in the environment and is highly contagious. The disease has been spread, for example by pig transport, using feed containing the virus to pigs, and by wild boars. Outbreaks that have appeared far away in new areas mainly result from feeding contaminated food waste to pigs. Spread is also possible through the animal or feed transport equipment contaminated by the virus.
Research report “The effects of structural change in agriculture on the spread of animal disease in Finland” was published in 2015. The aim of this study was to assess how changes in the structure of animal production impact on animal disease risks and the economic consequences of diseases. The examined diseases were African swine fever, foot and mouth disease and bluetongue.
Finnish Food Authority recommends that no wild boar meat or food products made from it should be brought into Finland from the countries with ASF
The ASF virus is not destroyed in low cooking temperatures and it can therefore also spread, for example in smoked or air-dried meat products. Freezing does not destroy the virus, either. For this reason, it is prohibited to import pig or wild boar meat, including whole carcasses, or food products made from them, from areas affected by the ASF disease. The distribution areas of the disease and more detailed restrictions are presented in the Safeguard measures in place by the EU Commission. There is also available a map of the restriction areas. However, the disease has proved to spread rapidly, and decisions on the restriction areas lag behind the actual situation. Finnish Food Authority recommends that hunting trophies (for example teeth and hides) are treated appropriately in the country of origin for storage in room temperature and then sent to Finland. Import of food or food products containing pork from non-EU countries with confirmed cases of African swine disease is completely forbidden. It is usually forbidden to import these goods for personal use from countries outside the EU.
Do not bring back a disastrous gift from your hunting trip - trips to hunt wild boar in the infected areas should be avoided
African swine fever has been detected in EU in e.g. Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Italy (Sardinia), Belgium, and Germany. In addition to these, it has been detected in Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus and Serbia.
Due to the severely worsening disease situation in Poland and the Baltic states, it is important that hunters consider other options when selecting hunting trip destinations or whether to hunt wild boars. Hunters have reason to take extra precautions as well when returning from wild boar hunting trips in Russia and other countries with the disease, and Africa, because soiled equipment or untreated trophies can introduce the disease to Finland.
Careful cleaning and disinfection of equipment, clothing, and shoes used during hunting and game processing should be carried out to prevent spreading of the disease. Also, any hunting dog equipment (collar, vest, tracker and leash) should be cleaned and disinfected. In addition, one must ensure that the dog's coat is cleaned before returning to Finland. In order to neutralise the African swine fever virus, hunting equipment must first be cleaned of loose dirt and washed, after which it must be placed in a +60°C environment for a minimum of 30 minutes or treated with a disinfectant which affects the virus (for instance, Virkon S 1% or hypochlorite 2% solution) according to the manufacturer's instructions.
African swine fever occurring in proximity to Finland and the growth of Finland's wild boar population increase the likelihood of the disease reaching and establishing itself in Finland. If the wild boar population increases unchecked, eradication efforts against the disease could last for years. No vaccine exists for the African swine fever that could be used as a form of prophylaxis.
If a sick or dead wild boar is found, the municipal veterinarian should be quickly notified. Those involved in the handling of dead wild boars need to wash and disinfect their clothes before their next hunting trip. Dogs should also be washed and their equipment disinfected.
Disease can also spread with feed
The virus causing the disease also withstands heat (is destroyed +60°C/30 minutes) and acidity, and it can spread with unheated feed. The virus and other animal disease can also be spread in food waste, for which reason its use is forbidden in the feeding of food producing animals.
In order to prevent the spread of the disease, unheated feed, such as silage and hay, and fresh or untreated crops for feeding production animals, wild birds or game from areas with confirmed cases of the disease should not be imported to Finland. For example grain drying, including maize, does not necessarily destroy the virus.
The origin of imported feed should always be ensured as it may come from elsewhere than the country of purchase. Operators and primary producers in the feed business are responsible for the quality and safety of the feed they import as part of their self monitoring.
Prevent the disease from entering the premises
The pig farmers can prevent the disease from spreading to their premises as good protection from diseases is the safest way to prevent diseases from entering the premises. It is the weakest link of the preventive system that determines the level of protection, and it is important that all of the workers and visitors on the farm familiarise themselves with the use of protective equipment and follow correct procedures when coming from abroad. According to section 7 of the Animal Diseases Act 441/2013, the operator in charge of the holding is responsible for ensuring that sufficient preventive measures are taken on that holding.
According to the general instructions on protection against diseases issued by Finnish Food Authority and the Association for Animal Health (ETT ra), a Finnish pig farm should not be entered directly after visiting a farm abroad, as clothes, shoes and other equipment may be contaminated by disease (the 48-hour rule). It is also important to comply with the rules for the importation of gifts of food and other animal products.
It is prohibited in Finland and in the entire EU to give food waste to pigs (tame pigs, wild boars, mini pigs, and mangalitza).
It is not allowed to keep pigs outdoors
It is possible that wild boars moving across the border bring the disease to Finland, and therefore efforts must be made to prevent all direct or indirect contacts between wild boars in the wild and pigs kept as domestic animals, for example, through pastureland or feed. It is allowed to keep pigs, minipigs or farmed wild boar outdoors in Finland only if the fences fulfil requirements of national legislation. Fences must be solid and high and have a sufficiently strong foundation to prevent wild boars from getting through. See the requirements of fences in detail (in Finnish/Swedish).
Report suspicion of the disease without delay
Finnish Food Authority examines both domestic pigs and wild boars for ASF. If you suspect that pigs on the farm may have African swine fever or another serious infectious disease, you should contact the municipal veterinarian without delay in order to clarify the situation. If a sick or dead wild boar is found in the wild it should be reported to the municipal veterinarian or to the provisional veterinary officer immediately so that the animal can be sent to Finnish Food Authority for examination. You will find the contact information of the municipal veterinarian on Finnish Food Authority's internet page Veterinary services (in Finnish) and the contact information of the provisional veterinary officer (läänineläinlääkäri) on page of Regional State Administrative Agencies.
We are continually working on the prevention of African swine fever
The preventive work is carried out by the authorities as provided for by legislation. The key factors are to confirm the disease quickly, isolate the infected farm, cull the animals on the premises and clean and disinfect it in order to eradicate the virus. It is important to detect the disease promptly also in order to prevent pigs and pork products from being moved to other areas. There is no vaccine currently available for the disease.
All vehicles used for transporting pigs from outside the Finnish borders must be cleaned and disinfected in an approved facility for disinfecting transport vehicles before the animals are loaded both after returning to Finland and before a new transport.
Transport vehicles for animals, feed and goods coming from countries outside the EU have to be cleaned and disinfected carefully after unloading, and the vehicle must carry a certificate of disinfection. Animal transport vehicles from third countries must also be cleaned and disinfected again before loading in Finland. The link on the right gives you more detailed requirements for transport vehicles (in Finnish).
In order to prevent the spread of animal diseases, health requirements have been put into place for pigs that are to be imported to Finland. Total import bans from areas with highly contagious viral diseases are put into place by way of a decision by the EU Commission. The purpose of the general ban on feeding food waste to pigs is to ensure that African swine fever and classic swine fever will not spread to pig farms via food waste.
The industry is also actively taking part in the work of preventing highly contagious animal diseases More information on preventing disease by the industry is found on the internet pages of the Animal Health ETT, amongst others.
- Bringing home food gifts from within the EU
- ASF disease outbreak map (OIE)
- African swine fever (European Commission)
- #StopASF (EFSA)
European Food Safety Authority EFSA's video: African Swine Fever – How to stay one step ahead.
In addition to the requirements presented on the video there are some national requirements in Finland. In Finland it is not allowed to keep pigs or farmed wild boar outdoors unless there are double fences and all contacts between farmed animals and wild wild boar have been prevented.