By Mike King
Despite its geographical name, African swine fever (ASF), like all pig diseases, doesn’t respect boundaries. This was apparent Aug. 3 when Chinese government officials announced the nation’s first case of ASF in a northeastern province, creating a global sensation in the pig world that could have far-reaching implications. Not the least of these is an increased risk of a foreign animal disease (FAD) reaching American shores.
ASF is one of the three big FADs, a list that includes foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. If ASF reaches the United States, Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, estimates losses of $8 billion for the pork industry in year one alone. That doesn’t include related losses of $4 billion and $1.5 billion for the affected input commodities of corn and soybeans, respectively.
Keeping trade-limiting foreign animal diseases, such as ASF, out of the United States is critical to pork producers,” said Steve Rommereim, National Pork Board president and a producer from Alcester, South Dakota. “We all need to improve the overall level of FAD preparedness. We hope for the best, but we must prepare for the worst.”
As ASF has continued to creep across Europe from the Caucuses and Russian plains in the east to pig-dense Poland in the continent’s heartland, its progress has been of marginal interest to many on this side of the Atlantic.
“Whether from a false sense of security because of ocean barriers or simply due to other pressing concerns, confirmation of ASF in China has jolted the U.S. pork industry back to attention on FADs and their negative implications,” said Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health programs for the Pork Checkoff.
“Over the past few years, ASF has gradually moved west in Europe and is getting close to the German border,” Webb said. “If it reaches Germany, the EU’s largest pork producer, the implications would be dire for the country’s ability to move pigs and pork products.”
As for the current situation in China, Webb says that the U.S. pork industry is much savvier than it was prior to the domestic outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in 2013.
“Research shows that PEDV could be transmitted through feedstuffs, which certainly elevates our risk,” Webb said. “Since we get feed ingredients from China, we can’t simply rely on restricting animal and people movement. We need to look at all of the ways that a disease such as ASF could be spread, including across an ocean.”
The Pork Board works closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to address ASF and other FAD threats. The focus has centered on gathering intelligence, sharing existing FAD resources with producers and industry and staying in close touch with USDA’s Veterinary Services, including its chief veterinary officer, Jack Shere.
“I point producers to the Checkoff’s educational FAD resources to help them get ready at the farm level for FADs,” Rommereim said.
Checkoff resources include disease fact sheets, biosecurity checklists to prepare for foreign visitors to the farm and more.
Secure Pork Plan’s Role
Producers also can visit securepork.org for a comprehensive overview of the Secure Pork Supply plan, which will launch in 2019.
“The plan provides voluntary actionable items that producers can implement to position themselves well if a regulatory disease, such as ASF, reaches America,” Webb said. “Producers will want to be prepared to enroll in the plan when it is fully operational next year.”
He added, “The plan will help producers maintain business continuity when an FAD strikes. Participants will get preferred status that could be very helpful during such a stressful time, but the time to act is now.”
U.S. pork is not affected by African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in other countries and is safe to eat.
- ASF does not affect humans; therefore is not a public health threat.
- Pork products from animals with ASF are safe to consume.
- USDA has measures in place to prevent sick animals from
entering the food supply.
- As always, you should follow safe handling and cooking
instructions to protect your family’s health.
ASF is a highly contagious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public-health threat or food-safety concern.
- ASF cannot be transmitted to people through contact with
pigs or pork.
- Members of the pig family, including domestic wild pigs, are the only animals susceptible to ASF.
- ASF can be transmitted to pigs through feeding of uncooked garbage containing contaminated pork products. The Swine
Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste
containing any meat products to swine, ensuring that all food waste fed to swine is properly treated to kill disease organisms.
- ASF is easily transmitted to other pigs through direct contact with infected pigs or their waste, contaminated clothing, feed, equipment and vehicles, and in some cases, by blood-sucking insects, including some tick species.
- There is no vaccine that protects against ASF.
“Whether from a false sense of security because of the ocean barriers or simply due to other pressing concerns, confirmation of ASF in China has jolted the U.S. back to attention… ”
– Patrick Webb, DVM, Pork Checkoff