African swine fever in Sweden for the first time

A wild boar tested positive for African swine fever in Sweden for the first time. The disease is highly contagious and deadly in domestic pigs and wild boar. It has spread from Africa to Europe and Asia and has killed millions of pigs along the way. How does the swine fever affect Swedish forestry? 

African swine fever

The African swine fever represents no danger for humans. But it can be spread by humans, animals, pork, and tools and vehicles. The infection in Sweden is far away from the nearest infected area in Europe, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of Stockholm, so it’s assumed that it has been brought there by humans. 

The location of the swine fever epidemic in Sweden. Image/Screenshot:

African swine fever has been present in Europe since 2014. The symptoms are fever, bleeding, vomiting, wobbliness, and poor appetite. The disease is very aggressive. An infected wild boar or pig dies within 5 – 10 days. Earlier this year, an outbreak forced pig breeders in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia to kill thousands of pigs. 

How does it affect forestry?

To limit the risks of spreading the disease over 100 000 hectares of forest land are put under hard restrictions. That means that no one is allowed to enter the forest within the restricted area, other than those who search for affected wild boar. 

So far, the restricted area is limited meaning that forest contractors working there can go somewhere else and continue working. A bigger problem is that machines that have been in that area must be washed and disinfected before they can be put into operation elsewhere. Also, it takes planning, and, in some cases, new logging permits must be applied for. The risk that the restricted area will be extended is another issue to have in mind. 

The Swedish Association of Forestry Contractors gets many calls from worried members about the uncertain situation. 

Has made it so far. Photo: Per Jonsson

A long-term problem(?)

According to the Swedish National Veterinary Institute, SVA, experiences from other European countries show that early discovery and action are prerequisites to limiting, controlling, and eventually exterminating African swine fever. 

In most countries where African swine fever is present, the infection has started on wild boar and affected domestic pigs later. Therefore, reporting infected or dead wild boars to SVA is extremely important. The monitoring is dependent on reports and observations from the public, landowners, and hunters to keep track of the development. Discovered cadavers or samples should be sent to SVA for testing. 

A veterinarian should be contacted at the slightest suspicion of an infection by a domestic pig. No pigs must be moved from a suspected infected herd or stable until a veterinarian has taken on the case and given permission. 

On the SVA home page, the development can be followed on a map. Until today, 47 wild boars have been examined of which 37 were infected by African swine fever. 

No one knows how long it will take before the problem is solved. It’s impossible, especially considering that this is the first time in Sweden. It could be the new “normal” or, if it’s handled properly, it could soon be gone. 

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