· African Swine Fever (ASF) is a deadly and highly contagious disease caused by a virus that infects pigs. It does not currently have a vaccine or treatment.
· ASF poses no current risk to human health as it only infects wild and domestic pigs.
· Fears of contamination resulted in the cancellation of the World Pork Expo. This will cost the city of Des Moines, Iowa roughly 6.3 million dollars.
· The disease has ravaged the Chinese pork industry and may drop Chinese output by as much as 30 percent.
Today would have been the opening day of the World Pork Expo. In previous years, over 20,000 attendees descended on Des Moines, increasing the city’s population by almost 10 percent. The expo was cancelled by the National Pork Producing Council (NPPC) on April 10th due to fears of contagion from African Swine Fever Virus.
We were excited to attend the World Pork Expo to show veterinarians and producers our real-time PCR tests for PRRS and PDCoV. Ultimately, the biosecurity of America’s swine herd is of utmost importance. Given the ongoing infection of ASF in China and Eastern Europe, we support the decision to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo.
The heightened risk of African Swine Fever is a major concern of veterinarians and producers alike. If you work in animal health or have ties to the pork industry, then you need to know the following about African Swine Fever Virus:
History and Current Outbreaks
African Swine Fever was first described in Kenya in 1921 and soon after in Angola and South Africa. It was noted then that the presence of warthogs (Phacochoerus) correlated to the spread of the disease.
The first reported case of African Swine Fever outside Africa was in 1957 in Portugal. It was caused by feeding contaminated waste from airplanes to pigs.
The most recent wave of ASFV in Eastern Europe originates from a 2007 outbreak in Georgia. Between 2007 and 2015, over 750,000 domestic pigs died or were culled in Eastern Europe to mitigate the spread of ASF. Despite these efforts, the disease continues its march into Western Europe. Wild boar populations are a significant contributor to the spread of ASF throughout Eastern Europe.
Chinese authorities reported their first-ever outbreak of African Swine Fever on August 3, 2018. Since then, there have been outbreaks in every Chinese Province. It is speculated that ASF in China was spread via smuggled pork from Eastern Europe. The virus has since spread throughout China and entered neighboring countries: Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and North Korea.
About the Disease
Media reports have likened African Swine Fever to human diseases like Ebola and Plague. It is a highly contagious viral hemorrhagic disease. Signs of ASF include high fever, decreased appetite, red blotchy skin, diarrhea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Lethality can be up to 100%. It does not currently have a vaccine or treatment, although Chinese researchers are attempting to create a vaccine. If you suspect a pig has African Swine Fever, you must contact the appropriate government agency immediately.
African Swine Fever spreads the following ways:
1. Contact from infected pigs
The chief cause of infection is direct, indirect (saliva, feces, etc.), and airborne contact with the virus from a diseased pig (wild or domestic).
Contaminated objects (fomites) such as clothing, equipment, and vehicles can spread ASF. The virus can survive for months outside a host animal. This makes the possibility of fomite-related infections higher than other viruses.
3. Insect vectors including soft ticks and biting flies
Blood-sucking insects like soft ticks and biting flies spread African Swine Fever.
4. Feed and Liquids
A recent study by Kansas State found that African Swine Fever virus can spread through feed and liquids. Feed ingredients like wheat can be contaminated by the presence of infected pigs or wild boars Additionally, swill feeding of uncooked pork products is a source of infection.
Why the National Pork Producing Council Cancelled World Pork Expo
Fear of contamination from fomites and feed among international visitors caused the industry event to be cancelled. David Herring, President of the National Pork Producing Council said in a statement, “While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution.” While African swine fever presents no human health risks, the potential of bringing ASF to U.S. pig herds and the associated economic burden is reason enough to cancel the Expo.
Impacting Global Food Industry
African Swine Fever Virus’s presence in China will impact global protein markets around the world for years to come. Estimates from Rabobank and the Chinese Association of Animal Science suggest the total hog population of China may drop by as much as 30 percent from 2018. China could lose the production of nearly 130 million pigs in 2019.
Agricultural Economics Professor Chris Hurt believes the impact of ASF in China is going to create massive swings in global protein markets: “97% of the pork consumed in China is produced there. If China loses 1% of its hogs to ASF, it will need to increase imports by about 33% to cover that tonnage.”
African Swine Fever Virus effects supply as well as demand. Producers in countries with ASF outbreaks are unable to export pork products to many international customers.
African Swine Fever Virus is a unique and serious health threat that is disrupting global markets. This infectious disease in pigs has an incredible potential to devastate farming industries. Our hope is that the response to ASF can act as a watershed moment for increasing biosecurity around the world. While we were looking forward to Global Pork Expo, the health of U.S. farming communities remains paramount.
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