Saeima rubber-stamps more swine fever emergency measures

The Latvian parliament or Saeima on Thursday formally approved the extension of an emergency zone along the country's borders with Estonia, Russia, Belarus and parts of the border with Lithuania as efforts continue to contain an outbreak of deadly African swine fever among pigs.

During an extraordinary summer plenary session Saeima approved the extension proposed by the Agriculture Ministry by 76 votes to 0.

The vote reinforces the right of staff from the national Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) to enter and check animals on private property and gives them increased backup from the state police, forest service, emergency services and regional government to carry out culls as necessary.

In addition any hunters killing a wild boar are obliged to submit the body for laboratory tests.

Having first appeared in the south-east of Latvia near the border with Belarus on June 26 in wild boar, the disease was detected in the north of the country near the Estonian border on July 19.

Now the whole of the country's pig farming industry is on high alert, LTV reported Wednesday evening.

“"We are using special clothing, disinfectant and everything else. We're asking people not to visit us to try to avoid this disease,” a pig farmer in the western Kurzeme region, Ilona Blūzmanis, told LTV.

Though harmless to humans, African swine fever is deadly and highly infectious among pigs and wild boar and presents a serious threat to the pork industry.

There were worrying signs Thursday that despite efforts to stamp out the disease, it was gaining a foothold in the region.

Lithuania announced a fresh outbreak of the disease on one of the largest pig farms in the country in Ignalina region, with Latvia responding with an immediate ban on imports of pork products from its southern neighbor.

On Wednesday veterinary inspectors in Poland detected another outbreak near the border with Belarus, where six infected wild boar carcasses were found in Grodek province.

Both Lithuania and Poland have dealt with previous outbreaks of African swine fever, but June 26's outbreak was the first time the virus had been detected on Latvian soil.

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