PARIS (Reuters) – Poland recorded 55 outbreaks of African swine fever in wild boar near the German border last month, the world animal health body said on Thursday, in a sign the deadly virus is spreading near one of the European Union’s biggest pork exporters.

A report posted on the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) website showed that the disease, which has devastated herds in the world’s top pork producer China, had now been found in a village less than 30 kilometres (18.6 miles) from Germany.

African swine fever is harmless to humans but highly deadly in boars and pigs. It originated in Africa before spreading to Europe and Asia and has already killed hundreds of million pigs, while reshaping global meat and feed markets.

Germany’s government said early December it was stepping up measures to prevent an outbreak of African swine fever after a case was discovered in Poland close to its border.

A majority of the outbreaks reported by the Polish farm ministry to the OIE were discovered between Dec. 4 and Dec. 23 in neighboring villages in the states of Lubuskie and Wielkopolskie, 75 to 100 km from the German border.

There are fears in Germany that its exports of pork to China and other Asian countries could be threatened, with import bans regularly imposed on pig meat from regions where African swine fever has been discovered.

Authorities in German states bordering Poland have built fences in an attempt to stop wild boars wandering into Germany and spreading the disease.

A series of 90 cm high fences similar to those used to close farm fields were built by the state of Brandenburg in December while the state also relaxed hunting restrictions to allow more shooting of boar, the state agriculture ministry said.

The state of Saxony said it is this week building a 4.5 km electrified fence along a high risk sector close to the border with Poland.

Countries infected by severe animal diseases such as African swine fever or highly pathogenic bird flu, must warn the OIE immediately and submit regular follow-up reports.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and in Paris and Michael Hogan in Hamburg; editing by David Evans)