The USDA is taking action against African swine fever, a deadly viral disease that threatens America’s pork production, exports, and food supply. There is no current vaccine for the disease, which spreads quickly and is 100% fatal to domestic and wild pigs.
Potential Economic Impacts
While not a threat to human health, African swine fever in the United States could prove to be economically disastrous. The United States exports about 28% of the pork produced here. If ASF enters feral hog populations or domestic production, there would be an immediate halt to exports.
On top of huge employment losses, America could potentially see 15 billion dollars lost in the first two years. Within ten years, as much as 50 billion dollars could be lost.
African swine fever has not been detected in the Western Hemisphere for over 40 years, however, it was recently confirmed in countries as close as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. It is imperative that everyone steps up biosecurity measures to prevent African swine fever in United States herds.
Dr. Jack Sphere, deputy administrator for Veterinary Services at the USDA says, “This is not a disease that people get. We can consume the pork should it get into pigs. However, our best efforts to keep it out will be the best thing over the long haul. We are doing what we can to keep this disease out of the United States.”
The best way to keep it out of your facilities is to bring pigs indoors and practice biosecurity.
How is ASF spread?
- Direct contact with infected pigs, including wild hogs. The virus is spread through contact with infected urine, saliva, feces and aerosolized secretions.
- Indirect contact through consumption of virus-contaminated feed, or contact with contaminated clothing, vehicles or equipment.
- Transmission-borne infection by a vector such as soft ticks and other pests.
Although it cannot be contracted by humans, people can carry the virus on their clothing, shoes, and equipment. Producers and even pet pig owners are encouraged to increase biosecurity measures including the following:
- Limit on-farm traffic and keep detailed records of all personnel, vehicles, and equipment.
- Do not allow visitors on-site and train all workers on safety measures.
- Have workers shower in and shower out, providing clear lines of separation between outside (dirty) and inside (clean) areas.
- Separate work apparel between each site.
- Disinfect all equipment and vehicles entering or leaving.
Know the Signs
ASF attacks the lining and vascular cells of the vascular system and the pigs bleed out through their vasculature. If someone finds signs of a disease, they should contact their state veterinarian or the federal veterinary office.
What signs should you be looking for?
- High fever
- Decreased appetite and weakness
- Blotchy, red skin and lesions
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Coughing and difficulty breathing
- Abortions or sudden deaths
The USDA has launched a new website, Protect our Pigs, providing information and resources for pork producers, small farms, veterinarians, and pet pig owners. APHIS is holding an online, educational event on Wednesday, June 29th at 3 p.m. EDT. Register for the event here.