Italian region moves to curb spread of swine fever

ROME, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Italian region of Lazio is taking action to prevent the potential spread of African swine fever (ASF) after at least two cases were found in the wild boar population near Rome.

There was an isolated ASF outbreak in northwestern Italy earlier this year, followed by reported cases in the coastal region of Liguria and in Emilia-Romagna in central Italy.

Most recently, two suspected cases of the viral respiratory disease were found among 14 dead beasts found in and around Rome. Samples were sent on Tuesday to the Zooprophylactic Institute of Perugia to confirm the diagnosis.

Though swine flu rarely infects humans, it can still cause widespread damage to livestock and if the virus spreads to too many animals it can be difficult to eliminate.

The cases in and near Rome have spread in the population of thousands of wild boars that have encroached on the city's borders in recent years. Lazio, which includes Rome, has banned picnics in areas with large boar populations and required that fences be erected around trash bins in rural areas. It has also ordered more testing of domestic pigs and set up a hotline for residents to report dead or dying boars.

In a recent television interview, Andrea Napoletano, an aid to Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region, said local governments plan to "selectively" reduce the wild boar population by hunting. Under Secretary of Health Andrea Costa said a national "large-scale cull" was necessary.

However, these strategies have drawn criticism from environmental and animal rights groups.

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