File photo shows funeral rites for slaughtered reindeer, at Alexander’s, in Kapkatuw, east of the capital Pretoria, South Africa, on Friday Dec. 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
Norway said on Wednesday it was “astonished” by the extent of a virus outbreak at a church party in western Norway, with more than a third of pigs at a Christmas party in front of hundreds of people dying from illness.
Norway’s Food Safety Authority has declared the outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) the largest outside South Africa and the second biggest in the world after China.
“PED first appeared in Norway in 2015 but its spread to large scale has stunned us,” Sjon Pensbo, head of the authority, said.
The disease has also spread to Sweden, and experts fear it could spread to Europe. Two pigs in the Netherlands were sick with the illness.
PETA and the Danish Meat Association say the outbreak could mean supermarkets should raise prices for pork, especially ham.
Norway sold around 6.5 million metric tons of pork last year and about 80 percent of it was consumed domestically.
The outbreak hit a party held by the Presbyterian Church in Thorpe, a town of 9,000 people 1,500 km (900 miles) northwest of Oslo, on December 28.
More than 450 animals died, including about 300 pigs, nine sheep and two goats, the authority said.
Pals, a farm in Thorpe said on its website that 85 pigs had died but it was not clear whether those were part of the party.
Re-emergence of the disease was highly worrying, Pensbo said.
“We could very easily see the same thing in other countries,” he said.
PED is caused by the same bacteria that causes mad cow disease, leading to concerns it might transfer through food or be passed on by movement of pigs.
Unlike mad cow disease, a serious global disease that infected around 220,000 people in the 1990s, PED does not require veterinary treatment and the onset of symptoms is usually short.
Because it only affects piglets, the virus does not pose a risk to human health, but it rots the pig’s organs, leading to the condition swine fever.
One company’s Meatahaler division saw sales of pork and pork products with such characteristics fall by nearly a third in the first three months of the year, compared with a year earlier.
Virus outbreak kills pigs at Norway Christmas party (AP)