UK-wide exercise to simulate African swine fever outbreak

African swine fever disease contingency plans will be tested through a UK-wide exercise
African swine fever disease contingency plans will be tested through a UK-wide exercise

Contingency plans for African swine fever (ASF) will be tested as part of a UK-wide government exercise to respond to a potential future outbreak.

'Exercise Holly' will simulate an outbreak of ASF as part of plans to contain and eliminate the disease in the event that it reached the UK.

ASF is a disease which affects pigs and wild boar. In recent years it has been circulating in parts of Asia and Africa, leading to the deaths of millions of pigs worldwide.

The disease has also spread to parts of Eastern Europe through the movement of wild boar, causing significant disruption to the meat trade.

And just this week, Germany's agricultural ministry confirmed the country's first cases of African swine fever (ASF) in domestic pigs.

Whilst there has never been an outbreak of ASF in the UK, the exercise is seen as an important part of testing Defra's plans to respond to any outbreak.

The risk of the virus being brought into the UK in animal products from affected countries, including from illegal imports, is currently a ‘medium’ risk.

In a joint statement, the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said the risk of ASF arriving in the UK was 'ever present' and would have a 'devastating impact' on the pig sector.

"We regularly test our contingency plans in this way to ensure that we are ready to respond to potential future disease outbreaks," they said.

"Everyone can do their bit to help stop animal diseases spreading to this country through simple actions such as not bringing any pork products back to the UK and disposing of leftovers and food waste in secure bins that wildlife cannot access.

"The exercise will help improve the UK’s animal disease response capabilities through testing plans, instructions and the structures employed in managing an outbreak."

The virtual exercise starts on Thursday 22 July and will conclude on Friday 23 July.