African Swine Fever Risk Means It’s Time for Action
The African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China and in many other countries around the world is wreaking havoc on the international pork industry. Fortunately, ASF is not in the United States at this time, but the possibility of it or another foreign animal disease (FAD), means that American pig farmers must take the necessary steps to protect their farms and the domestic pork industry.
As U.S. pig farmers know, a robust export market is critical to the ongoing success of the nation’s pork industry. In 2018, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports totaled 5.37 billion pounds valued at $6.392 billion, according to USDA. If an FAD such as ASF entered the United States, it would likely eliminate this entire valuation to zero for an unknown amount of time, which is why taking steps to prevent it from occurring require immediate action such as those outlined in resources on this page.
Resources to Use in Foreign Animal Disease Preparation
On-Farm Biosecurity & FAD Checklists
Anyone who works with pigs should be familiar with the signs of ASF:
- High fever
- Decreased appetite and weakness
- Red, blotchy skin or skin lesions
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Coughing and difficulty breathing
Immediately report animals with any of these signs to your herd veterinarian or to your state or federal animal health officials. Or, you may call USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593 for appropriate testing and investigation. Timeliness is essential to preventing the spread of ASF.
Key Facts About African Swine Fever
Pork is safe to eat. African swine fever is not in the United States. U.S. pigs are not affected by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in other countries, to date.
- ASF does not affect humans and therefore is not a public health threat according to USDA.
- ASF is a disease of pigs only and therefore is not a threat to non-swine pets or other livestock.
- As usual, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food supply, including if ASF is detected in the U.S.
- As with any food product, you should always follow safe handling and cooking instructions to protect your family’s health.
African swine fever is a viral disease impacting only pigs, not people — so it is not a public health threat nor a food-safety concern.
- ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through contact with pigs or pork.
- ASF only affects members of the pig family.
- ASF can be transmitted to pigs through feeding of food waste containing contaminated pork products. The Swine Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste containing meat to pigs to ensure that it is safe.
- ASF is transmitted to pigs through direct contact with infected pigs, their waste, blood, contaminated clothing, feed, equipment and vehicles, and in some cases, some tick species.
The USDA does not allow importation of pigs or fresh pork products into the U.S. from areas or regions of the world that are reported positive for the ASF virus.
- Restrictions are based on USDA’s recognition of the animal health status of the region and are enforced by the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service.
- International travelers should be diligent in following all rules and regulations related to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol reentry declarations.
Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Bulletin Archive
USDA Actions/Resources on ASF and FADs
Secure Pork Supply Plan Information
African Swine Fever: What Producers Need to Know
With ASF now in many countries around the world, including China, pig farmers in the U.S. now realize what a negative impact that a trade-limiting foreign animal disease can have on the domestic pork industry. The growing worldwide outbreaks have resulted in the implementation of quarantines, movement controls and mandatory culling of swine in affected areas in an effort to control the disease—all of which underscore the immediate need of action by producers and everyone involved in producing U.S. pork to keep America free of ASF and all foreign animal diseases.
Studies led by Dr. Dermot Hayes, economist at Iowa State University, at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (CARD FAPRI) have estimated that in the first year of an ASF outbreak in the United States revenue loss by commodity would be $8 billion for pork, $4 billion for corn and $1.5 billion for soybeans.
Keeping trade limiting foreign animal diseases (FADs) like ASF out of the U.S. is critical to pork producers along with taking steps necessary to elevate the level of FAD preparedness in the industry. The Pork Checkoff has multiple educational resources available to pork producers to help address these topics.
International travel and hosting of international visitors can pose a risk for the introduction of a FAD into the U.S. It is important for pork producers to understand the risks and ways to reduce risk to help protect the industry.
There are steps that pork producers can take to raise the level of foreign animal disease preparedness across the industry and that information can be found on the Checkoff’s FAD Preparation Checklist.
Early detection of trade limiting FADs of swine provides the best opportunity to contain an outbreak. Pork producers and their employees are the frontlines of defense. The posters in the FAD push packs provide barn level awareness that serve as a daily reminder of the importance of FAD awareness. The Center for Food Security & Public Health provides education specific to ASF that can be used for group training.
ASF Frequently Asked Questions
- African swine fever is a viral disease affecting only pigs, not people; so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern.
- According to Dan Rock, Professor of Pathobiology, University of Illinois, most viruses demonstrate some degree of host restriction; they replicate in one cell type or host and not in another. While there are exceptions, this is the general rule not the exception. In the case of ASF virus, there is no evidence supporting either subclinical or clinical infection of humans.
- The host restriction in ASF virus is likely due to the absence of susceptible and permissive cells needed for viral replication. It could also be related to the inability of the virus to overcome intrinsic and innate host responses generated following ASF virus exposure.
- The World Organization for Animal health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of pigs.
- Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade.
- The United States has never had a case of African swine fever and there are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and DHS Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response strategy for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.
- In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and collaborate with the USDA.
- The organizations are working together to gather intelligence, engage subject matter experts, assess risk and determine appropriate actions moving forward to address the issue. As this situation continues to develop, we will provide future updates.