China has suspended transportation of live hogs from provinces infected with African Swine Fever (ASF). China reported a new case of ASF this week, raising risks of a further spread of the disease. The new outbreak is the seventh reported since early August. The Chinese ag ministry released a statement saying, “the prevention and containment of African Swine Fever are proving to be complicated and serious.”
The Indiana State Board of Animal Health and Indiana Pork co-hosted an event on Wednesday to provide an update to producers and veterinarians. Indiana State Veterinarian Dr. Bret Marsh said that because of the trade we do with China and the amount of international travel between the two countries, it is possible for ASF to make its way to the US.
“It’s also a big deal because of their huge swine population in China; over 400 million pigs when Russia has 20 million. So, just the size of that population itself presents as a unique challenge. There’s just that much more virus that could potentially be in the environment.”
He adds that because the US swine population is totally naive to this virus, we would likely see high mortality.
“That’s why we appealed to producers and veterinarians if there’s anything that’s unusual, to be sure to call the Board of Animal Health. And we have veterinarians who have received additional training as foreign animal disease diagnosticians. We’ll dispatch them to the site and even if it turns out to be nothing, fine. But we want to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
Marsh says that if ASF were to enter the US it would be devastating, just as it is for China right now. He adds that producers and vets should, “take another hard look at the biosecurity on their farms and make sure their premises identification is validated. We talked about veterinarians using electronic certificates of veterinary inspection for rapid traceback and trace-forward of animals if we should have an event like this. These are things we learned with our highly pathogenic avian influenza break just a few years ago that we could transfer into the pork industry and I think it will serve us well.”
How likely is it that ASF could enter the US? Marsh says, “I hope it never happens, but certainly with this movement several hundred and thousands of miles into China from Russia, and is continuing movement in Eastern Europe, all give us pause. The potential is always there so we need to be on a heightened sense of awareness.”
Marsh did say that African Swine Fever does not pose a public health threat. Consumers will be able to continue eating pork products and there is no risk to producers or veterinarians who take care of the animals.
More information can be found at the Indiana State Board of Animal Health website. You can also sign up to receive text or email updates from BOAH about securing Indiana’s pork industry. The event on Wednesday was streamed live via Facebook, and the video can now be viewed at the BOAH Facebook page.