African swine fever intercepted in Australia; spreads to Mongolia

It was reported this week that Australian authorities intercepted the smuggling of banned pork products into the country, and it was fortunate that they did, because the dangerously contagious African swine fever (ASF) was detected within the goods.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources seized meat products from travelers and from international mail and identified ASF contamination in six of 152 samples, Farm Online reports.

ASF is highly contagious among domestic pigs and wild boars, and the ingestion of contaminated meat is one way they are infected. Feeding discarded food to pigs is a common practice, so keeping contaminated meat out of the food supply is essential, especially in countries like Australia that have previously remained free of the disease.

The virus is not known to be harmful to humans, but can quickly become devastating to national swine populations, hurting producers and driving up the prices of pork products.

Just as protection on the farm is essential, the airport is another battleground for ASF. The virus has proven to be resilient, capable of surviving overseas shipment in feed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beagle Brigade made headlines last year when the team intercepted smuggled pork products entering the country from Ecuador.

Into Mongolia

The five-month-long ASF epidemic has been most prominent in major pork producing country China, and now neighbor Mongolia has reported its first outbreak.

“This indicates that it’s very difficult for any country to avoid introduction of the virus,” said City University of Hong Kong’s Dirk Pfeiffer, noting that the low pig population density “further strengthens the hypothesis of widespread geographical presence of the virus.”

The outbreak was reported at a small pig farm near the country’s border with Russia.

Since the epidemic began, China has culled more than 900,000 pigs in an effort to limit the virus. Despite the hard work, however, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization said that it was “almost certain” that ASF would spread to other Asian countries due to the extremely contagious nature of the virus.

In 2018, 360,000 cases of ASF were reported worldwide, mostly in Romania, Russia, the Ivory Coast and China.

In addition to regulatory and surveillance methods taken by authorities in China and any other country worried about being impacted by ASF, there are steps farmers can take to protect their operation from ASF and other swine diseases. For more information and best practices for biosecurity, check out our previous blog post on the topic.

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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