HAMBURG (B)--German authorities have lifted most of the quarantine area imposed after two cases of swine fever were discovered in the west German state of Rhineland-Pfalz in July, an official in the environment ministry in the Rhineland-Pfalz state government said Aug. 24. The official said no further cases or any suspected infection have been discovered. The cause of the infection is still unknown.

The quarantine area around the town of Bruch in Rhineland-Pfalz where one case was discovered has now been lifted, the official told BridgeNews.

Another quarantine area around the Minderlittgen is still in force covering 15 farms with about 1,000 pigs, he added. A decision was made Aug. 28 about whether this will be continued as no evidence of further infection has been found, he said.

"The cause of the infection has not been discovered and may never be as it is immensely difficult to find proof in such isolated cases," the official said.

One possible cause, although not proven, is that wild boar (wild pigs) living in the area are also infected with swine fever, he said.

The two farms where the cases occurred keep pigs in enclosed buildings and contact with wild animals is seen as highly unlikely.

But other forms of transferring the disease are also possible, such as a person stepping in some wild boar droppings in a field and then treading them into the farm building where the pigs are being kept.

"Such infection transfer into a farm can also take place via droppings on car tyres," the spokesman said.

Wild boar meat is a popular dish in Germany and is often available in supermarkets. "Feeding pigs with kitchen scraps is also a possible infection as the disease can stay active in cooked meat for long periods," the official said. "But we have not reached a conclusion about the cause."

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