Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Keeping African Swine Fever out of the United States

Chris McGann

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) took to the internet with a nationwide call to arms against a looming threat to the U.S. pork industry: African Swine Fever (ASF).

There is no cure for African Swine Fever, preventing it from infecting pigs in
the United States requires vigilance and strong biosecurity measures. 
“African Swine Fever has never been detected in the United States. However it is a very real threat,” said Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in a video message. He said the disease is "spreading around the world right now and affects both domestic and feral pigs.”

ASF is a devastating, deadly disease that would have a significant impact on U.S. livestock producers, their communities and the economy if it were found here. There is no treatment or vaccine available for this disease. The only way to stop this disease is to depopulate all affected or exposed swine herds.

Not a health threat to humans

Along with the strong warning, Perdue emphasized that humans are not affected by ASF and it is not a threat to our food supply.

“Within the U.S. we are working with many partners including states, veterinarians, and industry organizations to raise awareness of this deadly disease and how it spreads,” Perdue said.

WSDA’s role

WSDA is joining the effort to raise awareness.

Even though our state is not thought of as a big pork producer, Washington is the home of 3,000 breeding sows on approximately 376 farms, according to NASS.

Interim Washington State Veterinarian Dr. Amber Itle said ASF is highly contagious and it’s incumbent on us to be on the lookout for it, practice effective biosecurity measures, and help prevent the disease from infecting  both commercial and feral swine populations.

“ASF is only a plane ride away,” Itle said. “We are asking for everyone’s help in preventing it from getting here to begin with.”

A global threat

The disease has been a persistent and costly problem for pork producers in other countries. Since 2007, active ASF outbreaks have been reported in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic and wild pigs.

The ease and speed of international travel combined with the potential for this disease to cause animal suffering, economic losses, and food supply interruptions makes ASF a serious concern for both farmers and consumers.

In the video released with the announcement, Secretary Perdue said a U.S. outbreak of ASF could cripple the pork industry.

“We want everyone who comes in contact with pigs, from the large farm owners to the owners of a single teacup pig and even international travelers and petting zoo visitors, to understand how easily this disease can spread and the importance of keeping our U.S. pigs free of this disease," Perdue said.
“The U.S. pork industry supports more than half a million jobs, the majority of those in rural areas,” he said. “We know what’s at stake and we are determined to keep African Swine Fever out of the United States.”

How the virus spreads

Direct contact with feces, urine, discharges, blood, or tissues from infected pigs
Carrier swine and their relatives, especially wild boars, warthogs, and feral pigs
Feeding raw, undercooked or smoked pork products to swine
Contaminated equipment, footwear, clothing, food, vehicles, and facilities
Fly, lice, and mosquito bites
Soft ticks of the genus Ornithodoros (a host for the ASF virus)

Signs of ASF

Sudden death or chronic illness
High fever
Poor appetite
Red or blue-tinged skin
Skin hemorrhages
Diarrhea or constipation

Treatment and prevention

ASF cannot be treated. Efforts focus on containing the disease to limit the affected outbreak area, euthanizing all pigs on affected farms, and investigating the outbreak to identify the source. Prevention measures include close monitoring of animal health, effective biosecurity measures, animal movement regulation, proper feeding practices, control of wild hogs, and tick-vector control.

If you raise pigs, monitor all animals daily for signs of illness. Call your veterinarian immediately if you see unusual signs of illness such as high fevers, skin discoloration, or sudden death. Report any high mortality or morbidity event to the State Veterinarian’s Office.

Obtain a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for interstate movement of livestock. Quarantine herd additions for 30 days or keep a closed herd.  If you travel internationally, take extreme biosecurity precautions when you return.

For more information about ASF, visit WSDA’s Animal Services Division web page.