African Swine Fever: Update On Response Planning And Surveillance

Pork producers and swine veterinarians are on the front lines of the African Swine Fever (ASF) surveillance plan. Last month, USDA and FDA officials met with U.S. pork sector groups, including the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council and the Swine Health Information Center, to evaluate additional measures to prevent the spread of ASF to the U.S.

ASF Response Planning
USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently posted a disease response strategy for ASF that is guiding the development of state-specific plans.

“USDA has also committed to work with the industry to develop and host an ASF-specific exercise in 2019 to test key response functions necessary for successful ASF management and containment,” reports the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) in a press release. Exercise participants will include pork producers, swine veterinarians, packer and processors, and allied industry. Canada and Mexico will also be extended invitations to participate.

ASF Surveillance
Currently, there is only a passive surveillance system for ASF early detection that relies on producers or veterinarians reporting suspected cases of ASF to state or federal animal health officials, SHIC says.

USDA piloted an active ASF testing program using the approved sample, whole blood, similar to the classical swine fever program. SHIC says USDA is modeling surveillance needs, including development of a revised case definition for sick pigs and identification of the best surveillance streams for early disease detection.

In addition, USDA will start testing tonsils from case-compatible submissions. SHIC is developing estimated costs of adding additional samples, such as spleen, to determine budget requirements for adding additional samples. USDA is also exploring testing of case-compatible samples taken from sick pigs observed at licensed "plate waste" feeding facilities during their regular inspections.

Laboratory Testing Capacity
If an outbreak occurs, 11 National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) laboratories have been approved by APHIS to test for ASF. Currently, 6,500 PCR samples could be run per day. Capacity could be increased to 8,000 samples per day with additional proficiency-tested staffing. USDA's Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health is determining the sample size needed for testing if an outbreak occurs.

SHIC says USDA has identified another 22 laboratories that would like to add ASF to their approved tests and competencies. These laboratories could potentially add capacity for another 9,000 tests per day.

Regionalization Agreements With Trading Partners
USDA and Canada have signed an agreement to recognize their respective regionalization plans in the case of a foreign animal disease outbreak.

“There is additional complexity with these negotiations since there has not been an outbreak of a foreign animal disease in U.S. swine in decades. As a result, U.S. capabilities to regionalize for swine diseases has not been demonstrated,” SHIC reports.