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Latvia may declare state of emergency to cope with African swine fever

RIGA (Reuters) - Latvia may declare a state of emergency in the eastern part of the country, near its border with Belarus and Russia to fight, an outbreak of African swine fever in some wild boars and domestic pigs.

Swine fever was discovered in Latvia at the end of June and earlier in both Lithuania and Poland. The disease occurs among pigs and wild boars, where its effects are devastating and often deadly, and there is no vaccine. It does not affect humans.

So far, a total of eight wild boars and three domestic pigs in Latvia have tested positive.

"Infection has gotten into wild boars and we don't know how long it will continue to spread," said Maris Balodis, the head of the country's Food and Veterinary Service. "Therefore, steps which can be done in an emergency situation are preferable at this moment."

Latvia's agriculture minister, Janis Duklavs, said on Tuesday the government wanted to announce an official state of emergency in the region but the final decision will be made by parliament, which is expected to vote on the issue this Thursday.

A state of emergency would give officials access to private farms so they can test even unregistered pigs, check vehicles leaving infected areas and implement other measures to limit the potential spread of the disease.

In 2013, Latvia exported live pigs and pork worth around 30 million euros, mostly to other European Union countries.

The state of emergency would be declared in an area spanning 5,000 square kilometers, roughly eight percent of Latvia's territory.

Russia has limited pork imports from the EU after African swine fever was found in Lithuania.

(Reporting by Aija Krutaine, editing by Mia Shanley and Larry King)

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