African swine fever hits entire Chinese mainland

April 23, 2019

China, a seeming ground zero for the ongoing African swine fever (ASF) epidemic, has now seen cases of the deadly porcine disease in all 31 of its mainland provinces, news that exacerbates the worries of producers around the world who are working to prevent the spread of the virus.

China produces roughly half (433 million pigs) of the world’s pork supply and has already had to cull a million animals in an effort to stop ASF in its tracks. Experts estimate that up to 200 million pigs could be culled, or killed by the virus, before the outbreaks cease. Naturally, this prompts fears about a shortfall in the global pork supply. South China Morning Post reports that there’s “not enough pork in the whole world” to fill China’s supply gap.

The virus has also spread into Vietnam and Cambodia, and outbreaks have cropped up in parts of Russia and Eastern Europe. Just this month, World Pork Expo, one of the biggest annual conferences for the pork industry, was canceled out of an abundance of caution — the event would have attracted pork industry professionals from around the world, some of whom might accidentally carry ASF virus.

ASF is deadly to pigs, but doesn’t pose a threat to human health.

Stopping the spread

Chinese and other global officials have implemented all kinds of emergency measures and biosecurity requirements to protect their countries’ swine populations.

At the same time, farmers have tightened their onsite controls to limit the chance of the disease spreading. The virus is most commonly spread by direct contact between infected animals (dead or alive) or by the consumption of contaminated food. As a result, using human food waste in feed has been banned or limited in some areas. ASF virus can remain for weeks in raw pork meat.

“It only takes one infected piece of meat entering the chain to muck it all up again,” said ASF analyst Christine McCracken.

Stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols are key in situations where indirect transmission might be a risk, especially if wild boars or soft ticks are known to inhabit the area.

At the same time, those travelling to and from swine farms should take care to prevent themselves from unwittingly carrying the disease back and forth, especially if visiting an endemic country. Studies suggest that 46% of ASF outbreaks are spread by vehicles and workers without disinfection, 34% by the practice of feeding refuse and food scraps, and 19% by transport of live pigs and their products, according to Meat and Poultry.


Category: Animal Safety, Swine, Animal Health, Sanitation & Hygiene