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Italy set for wild boar cull amid swine fever fears in Rome

Swine fever detected in Rome after isolated outbreak in northern Italy.

Italy needs to "significantly reduce" its wild boar population, estimated at 2.3 million animals, health undersecretary Andrea Costa said on Monday.

Talk of a nationwide cull comes as the Lazio region around Rome begins a "selective killing" of wild boar - according to regional cabinet chief Andrea Napoletano - after the first case of African Swine Fever (ASF) was detected last week in the Insugherata nature reserve in the north of the capital.

The discovery led to the implementation of emergency measures, including a ban on picnics and moves to fence off bins, in a large area of nothern Rome identified by regional authorities as a 'red zone'.

It is forbidden to feed, approach or disturb wild boar in the red zone, while shoes must be disinfected when leaving farmland or nature reserves in the area.

The Lazio region also set up a 24-hour toll free number - 803555 - to report wild boar carcasses or wild boars that are dying.

On Monday two more suspected cases of swine fever were detected in the Insugherata park, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, amid growing alarm in Italy's agriculture sector.

The highly contagious viral disease is fatal to pigs and wild hogs but is not transmitted to humans.

Costa said that swine fever posed a "very serious problem" for Italy's livestock industry and that while he recognised the concerns of animal rights groups, the time has come for a "large-scale cull" of wild boar "because there are too many" in Italy, particularly in urban areas.

The detection of swine fever in Rome follows an isolated outbreak of the disease earlier this year in northwest Italian regions of Liguria and Piemonte where containment measures are underway.

Rome's environment councillor Sabrina Alfonsi has asked the municipal rubbish collection agency AMA to identify bins that need to be fenced off from the wild animals who in recent years have discovered that it is easier to rifle through the city's often-overflowing trash than go foraging for food in the woods.

So how did swine fever arrive in Rome and is it connected to the outbreak in northern Italy?

Angelo Ferrari, the government's special commissioner in charge of tackling swine fever, believes that the arrival of the disease in Rome has nothing to do with the cases in Liguria and Piemonte.

Based on epidemiological data collected so far, Ferrari believes the origin could be related to food waste.

Meanwhile plans to fence off bins in north Rome are being met with resistance from trade unions representing AMA workers - reports Corriere della Sera - who say the measures will make it "impossible" for them to carry out their job.

Wild boar are increasingly in the spotlight in Rome, after a woman was attacked by a sow on a street in Balduina last week and another woman chased by a hog in Villa Glori park at the weekend.

The tusked animals, called cinghiali in Italian, can be extremely dangerous to humans if approached when in the presence of their piglets.

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Italy set for wild boar cull amid swine fever fears in Rome

Via Paolo Emilio Castagnola, 00135 Roma RM, Italy

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