The objective of this study was to analyse an outbreak of classical swine fever under a policy of non-vaccination, intensive surveillance and eradication in an area of high pig density. The virus was found in 52 herds, where some 90,000 pigs were slaughtered. The clinical signs were vague and the reports of suspect herds generally coincided with increased mortality. The interval between the first occurrence of clinical signs and the report of a suspect herd was shorter when the disease was first diagnosed in fattening pigs than when it was diagnosed in sows, boars or suckling piglets. Among fattening pigs, mortality and morbidity appeared to increase with age. The proportion of clinically ill animals was positively correlated with the proportion of serologically positive animals in a pig house during the phase when the disease was spreading. Fifty-eight per cent of pig houses containing only clinically healthy but some virologically positive pigs were serologically negative. Antigen detection was therefore critical for early disease detection. Serology was nevertheless useful to ascertain that swine fever was not endemic in the area. The secondary cases were concentrated in the close neighbourhood of the herd initially infected.