July 24, 2013
Local veterinary services have predicted that African swine fever (ASF), which is spreading across the territory of Russia and Belarus, may soon reach the Baltic States.
The head of the Lithuanian Veterinary and Food Service of Lithuania, Jonas Milius, described the ASF situation in neighbouring Belarus as "threatening and virtually unmanageable".
He noted that the first outbreak of infection in Belarus was found in Grodno Oblast, which is 30 kilometres from the border with Lithuania, while the latest outbreak was recorded in Vitebsk Oblast, near the border with Latvia.
"There is a considerable distance between the two outbreaks and this may indicate that the epidemic has spread throughout the whole territory of Belarus," said Milius.
He added that Lithuania has taken all the necessary measures to prevent the virus entering the country and had informed the European Commission (EC) about the threat. The country has also asked for €3.5 million (US$4.6 million) of financial aid from the EC to keep the virus out of Europe.
According to Milius, the Lithuanian veterinary service has already received LTL750,000 (US$287,000) from the government to fund the fight against ASF. However, he added: "We only have enough available funds and tools for about two months, so this week we applied for European aid. Representatives of the European Commission, to whom I talk regularly, are well aware what an outbreak of African swine fever in Lithuania would mean for the whole EU. For example, Russia banned imports from the EU when it found infected potatoes, so we all understand what can happen with pigs."
Milius also reported that authorities were considering building a 500-mile fence on the border of Lithuania and Belarus to stop the free movement of wild animals between the two countries. The fight against ASF on the border could take about 5-10 years to be successful, he added.