The classical swine fever epidemic 1997-1998 in The Netherlands: descriptive epidemiology

A R Elber, A Stegeman, H Moser, H M Ekker, J A Smak, F H Pluimers

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    The objective of this paper is to describe the severe epidemic of classical swine fever (CSF) in The Netherlands in 1997-1998 under a policy of non-vaccination, intensive surveillance, pre-emptive slaughter and stamping out in an area which has one of the highest pig and herd densities in Europe. The primary outbreak was detected on 4 February 1997 on a mixed sow and finishing pig herd. A total of 429 outbreaks was observed during the epidemic, and approximately 700,000 pigs from these herds were slaughtered. Among these outbreaks were two artificial insemination centres, which resulted in a CSF-suspect declaration of 1680 pig herds (mainly located in the southern part of The Netherlands). The time between introduction of CSF virus (CSFV) into the country and diagnosis of CSF in the primary outbreak was estimated to be approximately 6 weeks. It is presumed that CSFV was spread from The Netherlands to Italy and Spain via shipment of infected piglets in the beginning of February 1997, before the establishment of a total stand-still of transportation. In June 1997, CSFV is presumed to be introduced into Belgium from The Netherlands. Pre-emptive slaughter of herds that had been in contact with infected herds or were located in close vicinity of infected herds, was carried out around the first two outbreaks. However, this policy was not further exercised till mid-April 1997, when pre-emptive slaughter became a standard operational procedure for the rest of the epidemic. In total, 1286 pig herds were pre-emptively slaughtered. (approximately 1.1 million pigs). A total of 44 outbreaks (10%) was detected via pre-emptive slaughter. When there were clinical signs, the observed symptoms in infected herds were mainly atypical: fever, apathy, ataxia or a combination of these signs. In 322 out of 429 outbreaks (75%), detection was bases on clinical signs observed: 32% was detected by the farmer, 25% by the veterinary practitioner, 10% of the outbreaks by tracing teams and 8% by screening teams of the veterinary authorities. In 76% of the outbreaks detected by clinical signs, the farmer reported to have seen clinical symptoms for less than 1 week before diagnosis, in 22% for 1-4 weeks before diagnosis, and in 4 herds (1%) the farmer reported to have seen clinical symptoms for more than 4 weeks before diagnosis. Transportation lorries played a major role in the transmission of CSFV before the primary outbreak was diagnosed. It is estimated that approximately 39 herds were already infected before the first measures of the eradication campaign came into force. After the first measures to stop the spread of CSFV had been implemented, the distribution of the most likely routes of transmission markedly changed. In most outbreaks, a neighbourhood infection was indicated. Basically, there were two reasons for this catastrophe. Firstly, there was the extent of the period between introduction of the virus in the region and detection of the first outbreak. As a result, CSFV had opportunities to spread from one herd to another during this period. Secondly, the measures initially taken did not prove sufficient in the swine- and herd-dense region involved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)157-84
    Number of pages28
    JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
    Issue number3-4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1999


    • Animal Husbandry
    • Animals
    • Classical Swine Fever
    • Disease Outbreaks
    • Female
    • Insemination, Artificial
    • Male
    • Mortality
    • Netherlands
    • Public Policy
    • Swine
    • Vaccination


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