Could a ham sandwich wipe out the UK pig population?
Pigs, like all other animals, get diseases. Some will resolve with time, some require treatment, and some sadly carry a grave prognosis. We are lucky to live on an island meaning we have a degree of protection from diseases that are rapidly spreading through Europe and elsewhere in the world. However, there is rising concern about a Notifiable disease called African Swine Fever.
By this point you are probably curious about the connection between a ham sandwich, African Swine Fever and the UK pig population. African Swine Fever is a viral disease that spreads rapidly throughout pig populations. There are a number of ways in which the virus can infect pigs, these include:
· Pigs coming into contact with infected pigs or their body fluids or faeces
· Pigs coming into contact with contaminated items eg: clothing, vehicles, people.
· Pigs ingesting infected meat products.
The virus is able to survive for a long time in cooked or frozen pork. Pork imported from areas in the world where African Swine Fever is present could, despite the best effort of those working tirelessly to prevent the virus entering, contain African Swine Fever. This is where the ham sandwich comes in… Say you are visiting the Forest of Dean and you half eat a ham sandwich, containing meat from an infected pig, and you accidentally drop half on the floor and put your dirty sandwich into the a bin. Later that evening a wild boar rummages through the bin and eats the remaining half of your ham sandwich; there is a strong chance that wild boar could become infected with African Swine Fever. The wild boar the defecates on the road and the disease is then on the tyres of cars belonging to people visiting from far and wide and all of a sudden the virus is nationwide.
This blog is by no means is supposed to discourage people from enjoying a ham sandwich and is a gross oversimplification of the pathogenesis of the disease. However, it is important that we work together to ensure our commercial, wild boar, and pet pig population do not have access to pork or any other kitchen waste to prevent the introduction and spread of nasty disease such as African Swine Fever.