Aglona pilgrims warned about swine fever

The Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) and the information center of Latvia’s Catholic Church released a joint statement Thursday warning worshippers planning to take part in the annual August pilgrimage to Aglona about the current swine fever outbreaks in Latgale province.

As reported, the territory where the government has declared an emergency situation until October 1 includes the entire Aglona district.

The PVD also announced the launch of a hotline where residents can call veterinary inspectors directly to inquire about preventive or combating measures inside the quarantine zone.

Pilgrims are being urged not to spend the night at homesteads that keep domestic pigs within the declared emergency situation territories. If unavoidable, pilgrims should not go near a pig pen.

Other recommended measures include not leaving food waste at rest stops or the side of the road, but rather in sealed containers in trash cans in inhabited areas.

All footwear should be cleaned or rinsed as much as possible, especially inside the quarantine zone.

No pork meat or products should be taken into or out of the quarantine zone.

Meat products should be purchased only from legal points of sale.

If local inhabitants share their food, it should be consumed on site and not carried elsewhere.

All foods, especially pork products, should be entirely consumed at one mealtime.

No pork products should be purchased for taking away.

Any wild boar carcasses seen in the woods, near homes or elsewhere should be reported to the PVD’s hotline.

While harmless to humans, people can be carriers of the virus via clothing and shoes, exposing new populations of pigs to the disease. The African strain differs from classical swine fever in that there is no vaccine to protect domestic pigs against it.

The emergency situation territories have been declared for African swine fever, whereas the declared quarantine zones apply both to the classical and African strains of the virus.

As Latvia’s most important Catholic spiritual center, Aglona’s basilica is known as a sacred site visited each year by hundreds of thousands of Eastern European believers on the day of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Many of Latvia’s Catholics observe a tradition of walking all or part of the way to the event, the journey taking some up to a week or longer to complete.

As August 15 nears, roads to Aglona become crowded with groups of worshippers, who come singing, carrying flags and crucifixes to the celebration of the holy site, drink from its sulfur spring and glimpse the Virgin Mary on a 17th century oak icon kept under wraps during the rest of the year. Many believe the spring and icon have miraculous healing powers.

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