Serbia reports outbreak of African swine fever in boars

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia has seen an outbreak of the pig disease African swine fever (ASF) in wild boars in the east of the country, close to the country's borders with Bulgaria and Romania, the state Tanjug news agency said on Wednesday.

ASF is harmless to humans but it is highly contagious and deadly in pigs. It spread from Africa to Europe and Asia and has already killed hundreds of millions of pigs, affecting global meat markets.

The disease was discovered in two hunting grounds in the eastern Serbian areas of Pirot and Kladovo, Tanjug reported, quoting Sasa Ostojic, the head of the national veterinary Crisis Centre.

Authorities have ordered shooting of boars to reduce their population in the affected areas and contain the disease.

"They (boars) are having more and more such cases (of ASF) and it was expected it could spread to our regions," Ostojic was quoted as saying.

Serbia's neighbors Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria have already reported outbreaks of the disease, mainly spread by boars which are also a popular game among hunters in the region.

Asian countries including China regularly impose import bans

on pork from regions where ASF has been discovered, causing huge

loss of business for meat exporters.

Last August several pig farms in Serbia were affected by ASF. The authorities later said they halted the outbreak.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Susan Fenton)