Researchers Analyze Risk for ASF Introduction into U.S. Via Airports

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As African swine fever (ASF) spreads throughout China, East Asia and Western Europe, the risk of ASF virus introduction into the U.S. increases. A new analysis says that risk of introduction – not pigs breaking with ASF – has increased 183%.

The study, conducted by the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota (OIE collaborating center on capacity building) and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain (OIE reference laboratory for ASF), looked at the risk of ASF introduction into the U.S. via airport passengers and the likelihood of any ASF-contaminated product getting through, and out of, the airport. 
Paul Sundberg, DVM, executive director of the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), said the results confirmed the likelihood of ASF being introduced into the U.S. is very high, as consistent with other countries’ experiences.

“It’s important to note, however, that this is not risk of pigs getting sick. It is just the calculated risk of a contaminated product getting through the airport, past customs,” Sundberg says.

The researchers say it’s likely the risk decreases substantially after customs inspection. Most of the risk (greater than 50%) was associated with flights originating from China and Hong Kong, followed by the Russian Federation (27%).

Which Airports Are at Greatest Risk?
Data showed risk was the highest in summer, with five airports accounting for greater than 90% of the risk:

  • Newark, N.J.
  • George Bush, Houston, Texas
  • Los Angeles, Calif.
  • John F. Kennedy, New York, N.Y.
  • San Jose, Calif.

“This data will help to inform surveillance strategies for the disease in the US, with the ultimate objective of preventing, or mitigating the impact of a hypothetical ASF virus incursion into the country,” the release says.

This study was funded by the SHIC and the National Pork Board.

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