African swine fever continues at the forefront as Year of the Pig begins

This week we enter the Year of the Pig, according to the Lunar calendar — fitting, as issues concerning pigs and wild boars promise to be on the forefront many minds due to ongoing outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) in many parts of the globe.

In China alone, nearly one million pigs have been culled in the past half year in an effort to prevent ASF from spreading. Already endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, the cases of the disease have increased in other regions as of late. The disease has been most prevalent in China, Romania and Russia, but it has also appeared in Japan, Mongolia and Belgium.

Authorities have enacted strict control measures to prevent the spread of ASF, but the disease’s highly contagious nature makes it hard to contain. Some experts say it’s inevitable that ASF will reach more countries as 2019 rolls on.

Still, China — which produces about half of the world’s pork — has established epidemic zones in the hardest-hit areas, restricted the transportation of pigs and closed off pig markets in some areas. In Japan, where the seventh case of ASF since September was just confirmed, strict restrictions were imposed on shipping swine and swine feed crop in affected areas. These restrictions had been lifted last week, but the newly discovered case will likely lead to their reinstatement, producers said.

In Denmark, construction began last month on a 43-mile-long fence along its border with Germany intended to keep out wild boars that could carry ASF. Denmark exports about $4.5 billion in pork products annually, and its pigs outnumber its people with 215 to every 100 residents.

About ASF

ASF doesn’t harm humans or present much of a food safety risk — the main concern is how quickly it can harm a nation’s swine population, devastating the pork industry.

It’s most notable for the bloody sores it causes on a pig’s skin and internal organs, and causes other symptoms in pigs, including fever, loss of appetite, coughing, vomiting and diarrhea. It has no cure or vaccine.

How is ASF spread? In the latest outbreaks, experts blame the common practice of feeding human food waste to pigs. When contaminated pork products make their way into the trash, pigs can get sick. For this reason, it’s important to keep ASF out of the food supply, even if there are no health concerns for human consumers. The disease can also be spread by contact with a contaminated pig, dead or alive.

Neogen offers products that can play an essential role in any biosecurity program to keep animals and people safe, including disinfectants, cleaners, personal protective equipment and more.

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