“We don't want to start spreading panic, but the situation is serious,” head of the German pig keepers association (ISN) Torsten Staack told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung (NOZ) on Wednesday.
He said that the virus was highly contagious between animals and if a pig contracts it, they generally die very quickly. If it hit Germany, the consequences would cost “into the billions” and could see around 31,000 of the country's pig keepers affected by trading restrictions.
A mass cull could be, he warned, necessary to keep the virus under control as affected animals have to be put down immediately, the NOZ said.
The Agriculture Ministry issued an official warning on Tuesday about the outbreak in Russia and Ukraine – and has advised people travelling from those countries in particular not to bring pork products back into Germany.
The virus manifests itself primarily with a high fever, other symptoms differ between animals and there is no vaccination against it. It is not dangerous to humans.
“African swine fever is a long-term problem,” Staack told the paper. He added that Russia and its neighbouring states were clearly failing to get it under control.
A kind of “fire brigade for plague control” could be beneficial in situations like these, he said.