A fresh outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) has occurred in China, the country’s department of agriculture has said.

According to a report from Reuters news organisation, the outbreak occurred on a farm with 102 pigs in the Sichuan province in the southwest of the country.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said that 21 pigs on the farm had been infected and killed by the outbreak.

The highly contagious disease has also been detected beyond China. Traces of the virus have been discovered in a number of European countries, with infected animals being culled, mainly in eastern Europe.

Traces of ASF were also discovered among illegal meat that was seized in Northern Ireland. The virus entered the Czech Republic in a similar way, where it was then transmitted to the country’s wild boar population.

‘Critical control measure’

Following the seizure in Northern Ireland, Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said that: “We can keep ASF out of Ireland if everyone – including farmers, veterinary practitioners, industry representatives and members of the public – plays their part.

“The critical control measure that will protect Ireland’s valuable pig industry is the implementation by farmers – both commercial and hobby – of strict biosecurity measures on-farm,” the minister highlighted.

Farmers must ensure that people do not have access to their pigs and that pigs cannot get access to material containing meat and meat products. Farmers, in particular hobby farmers, are reminded that waste food containing meat and meat products must never be fed to pigs.

The outbreak in China has been linked with the practice in parts of Asia of feeding food waste (swill) to pigs, a practice that has been illegal in Ireland since 2001.