Veterinary health officials have visited more than 3000 homesteads in the area since the outbreak of African swine fever was first detected on June 26, prompting the government to call a state of emergency on July 3 to procure state funding for efforts to stop the disease from spreading further. October 1 is set as the last day for the term of emergency there.
Lab tests have not confirmed any new cases of either classical or African swine fever among the tested domestic pigs being raised in about 500 of the small private farms so far inspected. However another wild boar hunted in a cull of the forest population at the urging of authorities was confirmed to have swine fever, which is deadly to the pigs.
While harmless to humans, people can be carriers of the virus via clothing and shoes, exposing ever new populations of swine to the swiftly debilitating and mortal disease. The ban on public gatherings is a strict measure taken to keep people from inadvertently spreading the fever beyond the declared emergency zones, which include the whole territories of Dagda, Kraslava, Zilupe, Aglona, and Cibla districts, as well as numerous parishes in Daugavpils, Rezekne and Ludza districts.
The state of emergency gives veterinary health officials the right to enter private property to conduct all necessary tests on any pigs found. The state Food and Veterinary Service has also set restrictions on the use and transport of animals and food products derived from them, including vehicle traffic checks and other measures enforced by the State Police on roads leaving the quarantined areas.
Local district and parish governments must provide resources to burn or bury all dead or culled animals as well as provide support (including psychological counseling) for owners affected by the veterinary disaster.
The State Forest Service is coordinating local hunters for an inventory and culling effort to reduce the density of the wild boar population in the area’s woods to just five animals per thousand-hectare tract.
Zoologist Janis Ozolins blamed the hunting community’s voluntary feeding practices for a five-fold increase in the wild boar population since the late 1990’s.
“It’s such easy game to help naturally proliferate, no other species does it so fast,” Ozolins told Latvian Public Television’s morning news program Panorama Wednesday.
He went on to explain that Latgale in fact has one of the least dense wild boar populations in Latvia, which reduces the risk of wild boar infecting each other.
“Therefore the main risks to the quarantine zone are from human behavior and activity. The wild boar themselves will carry the disease or not only over an extended period of time, for such a relatively sparse natural pool it happens very slowly,” said Ozolins. “The (swine fever) can stop naturally of its own accord when the population is down to just one animal per thousand square kilometers, when the boar herds no longer interact with each other and when people stop acting as virus carriers,” the zoologist concluded.
As reported, a 40-kilometre wide quarantine zone encompassing around 5,000 square kilometres has been in effect in the southeastern region of Latvia’s Latgale province since the state of emergency was declared.
A wider area has also been declared a monitoring zone since the first case of classical swine fever, against which pigs can be vaccinated (unlike the African strain) was confirmed in 2012. Since then the trade in pigs and pork products has been strictly controlled by measures including a ban on imports and exports within the territory and increased cargo inspections and disinfection checks on vehicles.