Sharpshooters will be sent into the forests of the southern province of Luxembourg, where at least 15 cases of the disease have been discovered, to cull the boar population.
The action was demanded by Belgian pig farmers, who now face mounting import bans on their products, and mirrors a similar response taken by the Czech Republic.
- A quarantine zone in Etalle, Luxembourg province, Belgium, on Sept. 22, 2018, where nine boars were found dead because of the highly contagious African swine fever. (Jean-Luc Flemal/AFP/Getty Images)
Authorities in Prague turned to police snipers to control the outbreak there, which involved officers fencing off a large area and hunting 158 wild boars in a two-month period between October and December last year.
Belgian officials are increasingly concerned that the fever will be transferred by wild boars to farm pigs, which could decimate the country’s agricultural industry.
They have quarantined a massive 63,000 hectares (156,000 acres) of land near the southern border to prevent it from spreading further and have already announced a cull of 4,000 pigs at farms in the area.
So far, Taiwan, South Korea, Serbia, Singapore, China, Belarus, Australia, Japan, Philippines, Mexico, Uruguay, Malaysia, and India have all slapped import restrictions on Belgian pork.
Hendrik Vandamme, chairman of Belgian farmers’ union the General Agricultural Syndicate, said farmers had been struggling to sell pork products and that the outbreak led to a fall in market prices that was “much deeper than anyone suspected.”
“The impact on the pig sector is being felt in all corners of the country despite the highly isolated and remote contamination. We now hear various signals from retailers that sales will be difficult, translating into lower purchase prices,” Vandamme said.
Belgian authorities will compensate farmers for some of their losses and are set to ask the European Union to step in with further financial assistance.
The outbreak in Belgium has caused alarm amongst politicians in the Netherlands, which is only 93 miles to the north of the new exclusion zone.
Authorities in The Hague have announced they are introducing extra checks on pigs arriving from Belgium and have launched a new program to monitor the health of their own wild boar population.
“This is a serious situation for Belgium. To keep the risk for the Netherlands as small as possible, we will monitor the situation continuously and we will look if all the precautionary measures taken are sufficient,” said Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten.
“Transporters who transport, for example, pigs from countries where African swine fever is being found on farms, will have to be cleaned extra at the border. In addition, we are monitoring the wild boar population intensively in the Netherlands.”
According to the European Food Safety Authority, the disease originally entered Europe from Russia and Belarus in early 2014 via Eastern states including Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, and Estonia.
More than 361,000 wild boar and farm pigs have been reported to the OIE as being infected with the disease so far this year, with 119,000 deaths. The virus is not harmful to humans.