After his weekly meeting with the pig industry and other stakeholders today, the Chief Veterinary Officer, Jim Scudamore, issued the following statement summarising MAFF’s approach to the new cases of classical swine fever in East Anglia.

“Following the initial group of five cases of classical swine fever in mid-August, we now have three more confirmed cases, and a number of other suspects. Such cases are not unexpected. Classical swine fever is highly infectious.

“So far, the new cases all appear to be linked with the five initial infected premises, either by movements of pigs, people or vehicles before 8 August, when the outbreak was recognised, or by possible lateral spread. Some had indeed been checked by our tracing procedures. At that point, however, clinical disease had not emerged, and there was no detectable infection.

“As the Minister and the pig industry have repeatedly underlined, the key to controlling this disease is that farmers should strictly observe the controls on movements of pigs in the infected areas, to stop further outbreaks.

“We have however been concerned at reports that pigs are being moved away from holdings in areas surrounding premises where we suspect disease may exist. At present, we can only impose restrictions on an area when we are sure that we have a case or cases of classical swine fever. That requires laboratory tests which can take several days after samples have been taken. If it then turns out to have been CSF, neighbouring pig movements could significantly have increased the risk of spreading disease.

“The Minister has therefore today taken powers to impose a new type of movement restriction area when there is good reason to suspect that classical swine fever may be present. Restrictions will be imposed immediately but in advance of full laboratory confirmation. Each new area will be defined as a circle having a radius of ten kilometres centred on the suspected premises. If laboratory tests prove negative, restrictions will be immediately lifted. If a case is confirmed, an appropriate Infected Area, incorporating the movement restriction area, will come into force.

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“Seven such movement restriction areas have been imposed in Norfolk and Suffolk, with effect from 4.30 p.m. today.

“The delay in secondary cases emerging is also raising questions about how quickly it is prudent for us to release controls within surveillance zones. In addition to the requirements of the EU directive, I have explained to the industry that we may need to wait for at least 28 days after the last confirmed case of disease before starting work on lifting an infected area.

“We shall consider any other measures which may be necessary to control the disease. In particular, we are reviewing the current exemptions from movement restrictions under the Pigs (Records Identification and Movements) Order 1995 (PRIMO) which restricts movements off pig premises within 20 days of pigs moving on.

“One important element in our control system is the precautionary slaughter of dangerous contacts. These continue to be judged on a case by case basis, balancing the likelihood of disease and risk of lateral spread against the possible loss of epidemiological information from premature slaughter and the resources involved. However we are not hesitating to slaughter dangerous contacts, notably where there is known contact with an infected premises or where there are neighbouring outdoor units in close proximity. As well as the eight infected premises, we have already slaughtered four herds in East Anglia, and expect to slaughter several others over the coming days.

“Epidemiological investigations into the source of the outbreak are continuing. A letter by members of the State Veterinary Service, published today in The Veterinary Record, concludes that the most likely source of infection is thought to be an infected pork product.”

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