What is African Swine Fever and Why is it Such a Problem?

Recently African Swine Fever made headlines as health officials confirmed the first cases in domestic pigs in Germany. Previously, although the virus was present in wild boar populations, it had yet to make the jump to farmed pigs. While the virus was first identified in Kenya in the 1920s, since then, it has spread across many countries in Africa, Asia and Europe.

http://feralpost.com/wp-trackback.php?p=391 What is African Swine Fever?

African Swine Fever, or ASF, is a highly contagious viral disease which causes high fever, loss of appetite and, critically, sudden death. The disease can cause up to 100% mortality in naïve populations. At the moment, there is no known treatment for ASF. Much like foot-and-mouth disease, the usual methods of control are slaughter, carcass destruction, and disinfection. Unlike foot-and-mouth, however, this disease currently only affects pigs.

Free range pigs are more at risk from diseases carried by wild pigs.
Free range pigs are more at risk from diseases carried by wild pigs.

Between 2019 and 2020, the disease spread quickly across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. An estimated 25% of the world’s pig population was lost, either through culling or through the disease itself. This had an enormous economic impact on the pig farmers, as many lost their entire herd. It also impacted the wider global community as prices for pork products and piglets soared. In March of this year, a second wave of ASF hit China. This wave is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of between 7 and 8 million pigs, and is not yet under control.

Lebaksiu How does it spread?

The virus can spread in a number of different ways. Primarily, it is transmitted by contact between infected and healthy animals. This can be from contact with faeces, other bodily fluids, or infected meat and food products. The virus can survive for long periods of time on materials. As a result, contaminated clothing, equipment and vehicles can be a problem. Some species of soft-bodied tick can also spread African Swine Fever, but it is currently unknown how much of disease spread is due to this. Most studies into this aspect are confined to the origins of ASF in Africa.

While the trade of meat, both illegal and legal, and the movement of contaminated vehicles are major risks for spreading ASF, wild swine are an important factor. Wild boar and feral pig populations are responsible for spreading the disease across large distances. They pick up the disease from contaminated waste materials, and through natural movement carry it to other domestic pig populations. While some countries, including the UK, Australia and the Americas, are currently free from the disease, the risk of spread is extremely high.

browse this site What are the Control Measures for African Swine Fever?

Wild boar can transmit African Swine Fever across large distances.
Wild boar can transmit African Swine Fever across large distances.

While culling is usually the primary method of control for infected pigs, there are other ways to keep the virus in check. Tight biosecurity measures are crucial for maintaining healthy herds. Making sure domestic pigs do not come into contact with infected material is paramount. In the EU, it is illegal to feed pigs kitchen waste as the virus is able to survive for long periods of time in meat, even when frozen or cooked. Similarly, in other affected areas, feeding kitchen waste to pigs increases risk of disease.

As wild boar and feral pigs are a potential risk, it is important to keep them away from any domestic pigs. While this usually means keeping them away from any feedstocks or live pigs, in extreme cases culling or increased hunting is thought to reduce the risk of disease transfer. Controlling the import of pig products is another way to manage the risk of disease. As a result, there are tight rules about the import of pork products in many countries.

African Swine Fever is a notifiable disease across the world, so any outbreaks must be reported to the OIE. In the UK, this usually means reporting to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

Pigs should not eat kitchen waste to prevent disease transmission.
Pigs should not eat kitchen waste to prevent disease transmission.

http://redrooktattoo.com/ What would happen if ASF were to reach the UK?

While it may seem like African Swine Fever is an exotic disease and a long way from the UK, the reality is that it poses a significant threat. Wild boar are common in the UK, so if the disease did get here it could spread quickly. Similarly, the UK pork industry is an important part of the economy.

So what can individuals do to help prevent spread?

  • Don’t bring any pork products into the UK from affected areas
  • Keep biosecurity measures tight on the farm
  • Be aware of the clinical signs of ASF so that any infections can be caught quickly
  • Never feed pigs kitchen waste and dispose of food waste properly and securely
  • Keep wild boar away from waste, livestock feed, and farm premises
  • Clean and disinfect incoming materials and vehicles
  • Quarantine incoming livestock in a dedicated area with biosecurity for the recommended time before introducing them to the herd