Understanding African Swine Fever

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There has been quite a lot in the news lately about African Swine Fever (ASF) and the concern that this foreign animal disease could make its way to the United States. There has been so much concern, that the National Pork Producers Council decided it would be in the industry’s best interest to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo. National Pork Board President Steve Rommereim stated, “When it comes to the ongoing spread of African Swine Fever in Asia and Europe, caution must come first. We stand by our pig-farming partners in doing anything we can to stem the spread of this disease.”

To better understand ASF, it is important to know that it is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers ASF to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of swine. Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade. According to OIE, more than 40 countries have reported the deadly virus either in wild or domestic pigs during the past five years. Of course, not all of these countries are significant pork producers, but the diversity of ASF’s geographic spread in the chart below shows how easily the virus can spread.

Belgium
Benin
Burkina Faso
Bulgaria
Burundi
Cabo Verde
Cambodia
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
China
Congo
Cote D’Ivoire
Czech Republic
Estonia
Gambia
Ghana
Guinea-Bissau
Hungary
Italy
Kenya
Latvia
Lithuania
Madagascar
Malawi
Moldova
Mongolia
Mozambique
Namibia
Nigeria
Poland
Romania
Russia
Rwanda
Senegal
Sierra Leone
South Africa
Tanzania
Togo
Uganda
Ukraine
Vietnam
Zambia
Zimbabwe

The United States has never had a case of ASF. There are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine, and Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response plan in place for ASF that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.

The National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, and the Swine Health Information Center are working in collaboration with the USDA to prevent as well as be prepared.

Reference: Pork Checkoff News, Foreign Animal Disease Issue Bulletin, “Key Facts to Know About African Swine Fever,” Vol 2 Issue 2