An invisible enemy. A hog apocalypse. A tragedy of the commons. However you want to define African swine fever, it’s led to the new world we live in today.
Since African swine fever (ASF) was confirmed in China on Aug. 3, 2018, the disease has spread to several other countries around the world and has sent shockwaves through the pork industry.
“The world North American swine producers live in changed last August when African swine fever was confirmed in the world’s largest swine herd. Although the risk of introduction to North America is low, we must use extreme caution to protect ourselves for the benefit of the animals in our care and the economic wellbeing of all our farms,” says Gordon Spronk, DVM, member of the National Pork Producer Council’s board of directors.
The fear of ASF reaching U.S. soils grows each day as we hear more reports of this devastating disease destroying the global hog herd.
ASF is not a new disease. In fact, scientists and researchers have studied it for decades. Unfortunately, stopping the spread of the disease is very difficult with no available vaccine.
The quest for an ASF vaccine has been going on for more than 50 years. It’s no easy feat, because ASF is the largest virus known to man, says Liz Wagstrom, DVM, NPPC’s chief veterinarian. Because of its size, it’s difficult to discover which, if any, of those proteins has the antibody that would protect against clinical disease.
According to Wagstrom, a vaccine for ASF is still several years away from being available to pork producers. Some U.S. sources say 10 years, while a European report says the vaccine is still 20 years out.
Biosecurity and education: your best prevention
Andrea Pitkin, DVM, PIC North America’s health assurance veterinarian, says the biggest threat to ASF transmission is people. “Biosecurity is our main tool to prevent this disease,” Pitkin says.
Paul Sundberg, DVM, executive director of the Swine Health Information Center, agrees.
“I don’t see ASF pressures abating at all,” he says. “The global marketplace only heightens that pressure for us any time we have a virus moving around quickly to other parts of the world. My key message for producers is to think globally and act locally. You can watch what’s happening globally, but the best way to prevent introduction of disease here in the U.S. is to act locally. Make biosecurity a priority on your farm every day. That’s the most important thing we can do.”
Are you prepared? Farm Journal’s PORK is here to help. Check out more advice and tools from the world’s leading experts on ASF at porkbusiness.com/ASF.