PIEDMONT, Italy: Earlier this month, a case of African swine fever, which can be deadly to pigs but harmless to humans, was detected in a wild boar in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy.
The discovery triggered concern among Italian pork producers over the possibility of significant economic damage and postponed the official seasons to hunt for game and gather prized truffles.
With their meat commonly used in pasta sauces, wild boars are a popular prey for Italian hunters.
Italy's health and agricultural ministers have since banned hunting and other public access in woods and parklands in parts of Liguria and Piedmont, to prevent the fever's spread to more pigs.
Certain areas of those two regions have been declared off-limits to bikers and hikers, as well as for fishing and hunting for game and gathering truffles and mushrooms.
Officials from the Italian farm lobby Confagricoltura said China, Japan, Taiwan and Kuwait have already suspended imports of Italian pork, and neighboring Switzerland has also imposed some restrictions.
Italy exports pork and pork products worth $1.7 billion per year, with about one-third sold outside the European Union.
Other regions in Northern Italy are calling for a crackdown on wild boars outside the affected area to save their own pork production.
On Saturday, Gianluca Barbacovi, the head of the farm lobby Coldiretti in the Trentino Alto Adige region, said, "The African swine fever can hit pigs and boars, it is highly contagious, often lethal," as reported by the Associated Press.
Healthy pigs and boars usually become infected by, among other means, contact with infected animals, including free-ranging pigs and wild boars, according to the European Food Safety Authority.
In recent years, wild boars have also plagued urban areas, including some neighborhoods in the capital of Rome.
Lobbyists for Italy's prestigious Prosciutto di Parma, or Parma Ham, production are trying to calm consumers' fears, noting that their aging process for Parma Ham renders the African swine fever virus harmless.