A thousand pigs will be slaughtered after two cases of swine fever were detected on a farm in Rome's Lazio region, officials said Friday, spurring fears of a blow to the country's pork industry.
"We have to slaughter all the pigs in the contaminated area very quickly," Angelo Ferrari, tasked with managing the crisis, told AGI news agency.
The local health agency estimated 1,000 pigs would have to be culled to stem the spread, he said.
"The sooner we act decisively and incisively, the greater our hope that the commercial damage will be reduced," he said.
Italy, with about 8.9 million pigs, is the seventh biggest pork producer in the European Union, representing an eight-billion-euro ($9.1 billion) industry, according to the agricultural association Confagricoltura.
The two case of African swine fever detected in Lazio are the first among farmed pigs in Italy. Before that, cases were detected in wild boar in January in northern Italy, then in the Lazio region.
African swine fever (ASF) does not affect humans but is contagious and fatal for pigs and their wild relatives and an outbreak is potentially devastating for the pork industry, experts say.
A 2018 outbreak in China -- the world's largest pork producer -- caused millions of pigs to be slaughtered to stop the spread.
The disease has existed in Africa for decades. In a December 3 report on the virus, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said ASF had been reported in 32 countries in five world regions since January 2020.
In Italy, it has been endemic on the island of Sardinia since first appearing in 1978.
In western Europe, the virus was reported in Belgium in 2018, prompting China to ban all imports of Belgian pork.
After Germany confirmed its first case in a dead wild boar in 2020, China, Japan and South Korea, alongside Brazil and Argentina, also suspended German pork imports.
Italy's main agricultural association Coldiretti called on the government last month for the "rapid culling" of boars throughout the country to help stop the spread of the disease.
Images of boar walking through residential areas of Rome and feeding at overflowing rubbish bins regularly do the rounds on social media networks.