Internationally, swine industry works to prevent the spread of African swine fever

China, producer of nearly half of the world’s pork supply, is the latest country to be affected by an ongoing epidemic of African swine fever (ASF) virus.

The viral strain circulating China is believed to be Georgia 2007, named for the country and year it first appeared in. From Georgia, this strain spread through the Caucasus mountains into Russia, and then likely split into Belgium and China around the same time in 2018. These outbreaks have made 2018 one of the biggest years for the disease recently.

So far, in 2018, over 360,000 cases of ASF have been reported, according to the World Organization for Animal Health. Of those, more than 240,000 are from Romania, more than 98,000 in Russia, 10,000 in the Ivory Coast and at least 5,000 in China. Overall, there are currently 87 separate outbreaks in eight countries occurring around the globe.

Experts forecast a further spread of the disease. It’s been predicted to hit the U.S. within a year, where it will cost an estimated $16.5 billion dollars. U.S. authorities, in response to the threat, have increased the use of sniffer dogs for international travelers and have installed quarantine stations. More frequently, passengers and cargo from China and Russia are being inspected. These measures have been implemented after ASF-positive pork products were found in a South Korean airport.

In addition to these measures, some experts are urging authorities to do more, like banning soy imports from infected countries.

“If we continue to do business as usual then the U.S. will probably get ASF in a year,” biosecurity expert Dr. Scott Dee told The Guardian. “If we change some of our practices, which we are trying to do, then there’s a chance we can keep it out.”

The risk of the virus reaching the U.K. has been classified as “moderate” by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The agency has increased inspections and is advising farmers on how to stop the disease from reaching their animals. But with the virus having appeared in nearby Belgium, U.K. pig farmers are nervous.

“The virus makes very big jumps,” Dr. Zoey Davies of the National Pig Association told The Telegraph. “The jump from Eastern Europe to Belgium a couple of months ago was a very worrying development.”

The virus has been described as “tenacious,” and has been shown capable of surviving international feed shipments. It doesn’t affect humans, but is rapidly contagious among pigs, both wild and domestic.

Eradicating ASF

Western Europe is no stranger to ASF. A major outbreak hit Spain in the 1960s, where ticks were responsible for the spread. Over the course of three decades, the country all but eliminated the virus from its farms, in part due to strong programs that united industry, the government, academia and wild boar hunters, as well as scientific monitoring and diagnostic tools.

More recently, moves in Belgium to contain the disease in wild pigs have so far seemed to be successful, though just recently, authorities have expanded the buffer zone. Pork Checkoff reports that the country has established safety perimeters in which hunters will help collect boars to test for ASF.

Because there is no currently available, effective vaccine for ASF, stringent biosecurity measures are the best way to prevent infections. Pork producers are advised to avoid ASF-positive countries, and if they must visit an ASF area, to not travel with the clothes they wore. Cleaning and disinfecting are key on the farm and for transport vehicles.

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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