The biggest animal health threat facing the local livestock industry is African Swine Fever, an Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) scientist has claimed.
“From an animal perspective, it is the one thing that keeps me awake at night,” Dr Ken Lemon said during an online conference on Wednesday.
It’s moving west, and the worst-case scenario would be that it comes to Ireland
The disease has a mortality rate of up to 100% and it has devastated the pig sector in China since 2019, with over half the national herd culled. More recently, the virus has been found in wild boar in Europe.
“It’s moving west, and the worst-case scenario would be that it comes to Ireland. Thankfully, we are an island off an island, so hopefully that won’t happen,” Lemon said.
During his presentation, he outlined how careful surveillance of animal diseases is needed for both animal health reasons, and to prevent future pandemics in humans.
He pointed out that four pandemics over the past century were caused by the influenza virus, with three originating from birds, and one coming from pigs.
Lemon said that scientists are currently investigating the possibility that humans could become infected with influenza D virus, which is mainly found in cattle at present.