International Forum on African Swine Fever

Posted on
Ottawa, Canada hosted an international forum on African Swine Fever. National Pork Board senior vice president of science and technology Dr. David Pyburn participated in this forum. In this edition of Pork Pod, Dr. Pyburn reviews the information shared at the forum and the latest biosecurity recommendation for pig farmers.


Don Wick


Dave Pyburn, Vice President of Science and Technology, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and today our guest is National Pork Board Senior Vice President of Science and Technology. Dr. Pyburn, there was an International African swine fever forum held this past week in Ottawa. Tell me about this event, if you would.

Dave Pyburn: 00:29 Yeah, it was a great discussion actually, and it was attended by more than 15 countries. This meeting started out principally as a Mexico, Canada, US meeting, pulling those three countries together to look at our preparedness, to look at how we can work together on prevention of African swine fever. And then to also discuss, compartmentalization and regionalization to enable, any of our three countries to pick up the trade in the face of an outbreak in one of our country’s. Pickup trade, just as quick as we can and start trading safely again with our export partners. The meeting expanded, it went into a number of other countries that attended including countries from the EU, Brazil was there, China was there, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, I mean a number of countries. So it turned into a larger discussion of ASF really on a global basis. But I think it went very well. I think we came out of there with an idea on a framework of how to work together, especially amongst those North American countries as we continue to work on prevention and preparedness for African Swine Fever.

Don Wick: 01:40 So explain that framework for African Swine Fever.

Dave Pyburn: 01:44 Yeah. So what we, what we wanted to look at was this framework of our three countries together. Especially when you look at Canada and the US, there’s a lot of trade of product and of course of live animals as well, between Canada and the US. So it was how can we get together and make sure that we’re, we’ve got the same, I guess preparedness and protections, if you will, for both of our countries and really all three of our countries when you include Mexico as well. So it’s looking at what’s the plan for preparedness, what’s the plan for response? In our infrastructure right now as we look at both prevention and a response to an outbreak, where are the infrastructure deficiencies that we see in each of the countries and what needs to be worked on and, and especially focusing in then even harder on, on enhanced biosecurity for our countries, to make sure that we’re doing everything we can at a country level on the borders and also at a farm level on individual farms to enhance biosecurity and, and to try to keep this disease out of our herds.

Dave Pyburn: 02:46 And then if we were to get it, how are we going to work together on business continuity and plan ahead on working together for business continuity, which involves that, those concept of concepts of regionalization and compartmentalization, so you can still participate in safe trade even in the face of an outbreak of this disease. And then the overarching umbrella that goes with all of that is communication now ahead of time of any kind of an outbreak. And then communication planning in the face of an outbreak.

Don Wick: 03:19 David, you mentioned that there was representatives from all across the globe, including China. Did they shed any light on, on the current situation there?

Dave Pyburn: 03:24 Yeah. China, they, what they sent was a researcher and the message was all the same as what you’re seeing in the media. The reports of 128, I think it is total outbreaks. The reports of, you know, getting it under control in some other provinces and starting to relax some of the movement restrictions that they have. And then there was a, this researcher also spoke to the new rules along that came along in February of this year where they have to test every batch of pigs at the slaughter house to see if there’s virus as they try to track down the farms that do have virus on them. And then also a discussion of some of the biosecurity, that has been put into place on their large farms as they attempt to keep this virus out of those large farms. So, I wouldn’t say that we got a lot of new information from China. It looked like, this the researcher was very much in line with what we’re seeing in most of the media articles right now.

Don Wick: 04:21 What about Canada? What are they doing regarding biosecurity?

Dave Pyburn: 04:23 You know, we found out that we’re really working on a lot of the same thing. And when you, when you get right down to how this virus actually could spread to either one of our countries or any of the three countries, it’s really people. The primary risk is the movement of people and what they bring along with them, whether they’re tracking something on their shoes or on their clothing or even more important, whether they’re carrying in an illegal food product or an illegal meat product that could be harboring the virus. And, we all recognize that you know, we’ve got our commitment here from customs and Border Patrol, that they will increase the total number of beagle teams by 60 going forward. So we have more beagle teams and more trainers that are with those beagles that are protecting our borders and making sure that those illegal products don’t come in.

Dave Pyburn: 05:14 Canada is doing much the same thing on a little bit smaller scale. Of course they’ve got less ports, they’ve got less airports that they have to patrol, if you will for this. But they too are going to add additional beagle teams up there and do the same as, as what we’re doing down here. So I, you know, we knew that going in, we knew that we already were somewhat taking some of the same precautionary measures, especially when you look at how people can spread this virus. But it was good to hear it again. It was good to hear the commitment to from, from their government officials.

Don Wick: 05:43 For pig farmers here in the United States, what should they be knowing what African swine fever?

Dave Pyburn: 05:47 Yeah, you know, remember this is a virus and it’s really a fairly, if you, if you implement good biosecurity, it’s a fairly easy virus to keep off your farm because it’s not one that becomes aerosolized or spread by air. At least that’s what we see in the research. That’s what we’ve seen in the outbreaks is this is not an air spread virus. So we’re really talking about implementing biosecurity that keeps the virus from being tracked onto your farm. And that would be tracked on, in people, or tracked on, on people, tracked on in pigs, tracked on in product brought onto your farm or tracked on, on a fomite like a feed truck or equipment that you bring into your farm or something like that or, or for that matter, the feed.

Dave Pyburn: 06:30 So it’s really all about figuring out how you can make sure that whatever you’re bringing onto your farm, whoever’s coming onto your farm, is as clean as possible and it’s done in the safest possible manner. So know who’s coming to your farm, have controls on who comes to your farm, disinfect what you can before it comes on your farm. Have a clean dirty line so that it’s very clear what’s outside of your farm. And then at that, at that clean, dirty line, you’re going to control what comes into your farm or make sure that it’s either not been in an area or from an area that would be infected or it’s been cleaned and disinfected before it would be brought in. And when you start talking specifically about feed biosecurity, that really gets back to knowing where your feed comes from. Talk with your feed mill, talk with your supplier of your of your feed stuffs. Find out where they’re bringing in product from. Find out if they’ve got holding steps or holding times that they’re abiding by or if there’s any other mitigants that may be added to the feeds. To try to make sure that you don’t have the virus in the feed as well.

Don Wick: 07:31 So tell me, what do we know about feed transmission with this virus?

Dave Pyburn: 07:32 Well, what we know is we’ve got the D research that shows us that in fact it’s the potential is there, at least in a laboratory setting for the virus to be able to cross the ocean from a positive country in a feed stuff, be supported in a feed stuff and come into this country as a live virus. So we know theoretically it can happen. We also know from the Kansas State, Megan Niederwerder research that was just finished up that, you can indeed infect a pig, either through a dry feed or through or through liquid. If the virus is surviving in those. So we, theoretically, what we have at this point is we have information that shows that it’s possible to happen. We just don’t have the research that proves that it has happened.

Dave Pyburn: 08:19 But to that end, I’ve got an a number of veterinarians that I speak with, a group that regularly gets together and these are veterinarians that either are stationed in China, they’re US origin veterinarian’s either stationed in China or regularly making consulting trips to China. And we get together and we talk about a number of these things that could be risks. We talk about what’s going on in China. And one of the specific things that we have talked about too is what they’ve seen as far as on some of their farms. If the virus gets in, how, how could it have gotten in? Not necessarily proof, but they’ve looked at their biosecurity situation on some of these farms that have been positive in China and can’t prove it, but they’re fairly well convinced that feed very well could have been the vehicle that brought in the virus.

Don Wick: 09:10 Tough to know I’m sure. What’s the likelihood of this coming to the United States?

Dave Pyburn: 09:10 Yeah. I wish I had a scientific answer for that. I don’t, what I can tell you is the likelihood continues to rise that this is, this could come to the United States and, and it’s rising because more and more of the pigs in the world are becoming infected. More and more of the countries of the world are ending up with this virus within their borders. And as more and more of those areas become positive, then there’s more and more risk that something gets carried into this country that’s illegal, something gets tracked into this country, you know, accidentally from any of those areas that are positive. So, I’m still a firm believer that we can prevent this, that we have the technology and we have the capabilities, when you look at our biosecurity, our border protection, the way we raise pigs commercially here in the United States. I’m still convinced that we can keep it out.

Dave Pyburn: 09:59 It’s just going to be a matter of, of extra vigilance on our part and an extremely enhanced biosecurity that we don’t cheat ever. We need to go back to those days of five or six years ago when we were dealing with PED on a number of our farms and think about that biosecurity that we put into place to keep that virus off. And in a lot of cases, we did keep it off with that biosecurity. That same deep level of attention and maybe even higher needs to be applied to all our farms now to make sure we’re not bringing it onto our farms.

Don Wick: 10:27 Dr. Pyburn, regarding this forum in Ottawa, what action was taken?

Dave Pyburn: 10:34 Yeah. So, so at the end of the meeting the three main countries, Mexico, Canada and the US, their chief veterinary officers, I think actually had a press conference and I did not attend that, but I’ve, I’ve heard some of the information that came out of that and really what they said was, we’ve developed this framework now. Now it’s our chance to go forward and to further fill in the blanks on this framework. Figure out where we go from here. But, but some of their key messages that they came up with was one, we got to remember all three of our countries right now are free and the number one objective is to maintain them as free. That the spread of this virus is largely human driven. So a lot of the things that we do to try to keep it out of our countries will be addressing those human driven pathways to bring the virus in.

Dave Pyburn: 11:28 There was discussion of feral swine in all three of the countries, Mexico, Canada and the US, all three have feral swine or wild swine populations. They want to get a better handle on how they could control it if it got into feral swine, how they could get it back out of feral swine, in all three of our countries. There was also extensive discussion if we were to get this virus here how could we go about zoning and compartmentalizing our industries so that those areas that are safe, that don’t have the virus can continue to trade. That’s important to all three of the Canada, US and Mexico, is to be able to pick up trade just as fast as we can in a safe manner in the face of an outbreak. And so they’re going to work forward on that as well as OIE was also in the room and they’re going to work forward on zoning and compartmentalization as well. There was also a joint interest in funding more research into vaccine by all three of the countries and they thought that should be an area of emphasis. And then the bottom line is what’s the national action plan? What’s the national action plan right now to make sure that we’re doing all we can to keep this virus out? And what’s the national action plan to respond quickly in the face of an outbreak in any of our three countries?

Don Wick: 12:52 Any final thoughts?

Dave Pyburn: 12:53 Yeah, this really needs to be seen as the start of this process. I have not heard of a date of a next convening of this group. My hope is that the next convening of this group would be maybe a little bit smaller meeting, more concentrated on Mexico, US and Canada in the room and get down to the nuts and bolts on how to develop those national action plans.

Don Wick: 13:18 Dr. David Pyburn of the National Pork Board. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit