PARIS (Reuters) - France will cull all wild boar in a zone along the Belgian border to try and avoid an outbreak of a deadly swine disease after new cases were discovered nearby in Belgium, the French agriculture ministry said on Monday.
France has been on alert for African swine fever since the virus was confirmed in September among wild boar in Belgium, not far from the French border. African swine fever, harmless for humans, is often deadly for pigs, and outbreaks in eastern Europe and China have disrupted the pork industry there.
"The confirmation of two cases of African swine fever on Jan. 9, 2019, in Belgium at about 1 km from the border, leaves our country more exposed than ever to this major risk for pig farming," a ministry statement said.
"We are now at a maximum risk level."
France would create a boar-free zone spanning several km (miles) its side of the border by culling all wild boar in the coming weeks and erecting a perimeter fence in the next few days, the ministry said.
Poland, one of the eastern European countries to have faced cases of African swine fever in recent years, is planning to cull 185,000 wild boar across the country, drawing protests from hunters that the measure was excessive.
The disease can be carried by wild boars but experts also stress that human factors such as transport, clothing and food waste can play a role in spreading the disease.
No vaccination or treatment exist for the highly contagious virus. Outbreaks often lead to export restrictions on pigmeat.
Last year's outbreak of African swine fever among wild boar in Belgium marked a sudden westward spread of the virus in Europe, raising the risk it would reach large pork-production countries like Germany, France and Spain.
The authorities in Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia have also stepped up surveillance measures since last week, extending a restriction zone on its side of the French border.
(Reporting by Gus Trompiz; editing by Richard Lough, William Maclean)