African swine fever spreads in Europe and Asia

October 02, 2018

African swine fever (ASF) crossed a new border last week as it entered Western Europe for the first time.

It’s been a tough year for ASF. An outbreak of the disease, which affects only pigs, began in Inner Mongolia during early August. Since then, 29 outbreaks have rocked China, which has culled nearly 40,000 pigs in an effort to contain the virus. Over the summer, Eastern Europe was also hit hard with outbreaks, with Romania reporting over 900 outbreaks, mostly on small operations.

Since then, the disease has spread westward. CNN reports that humans are suspected to have caused the disease to enter Belgium, where at least eight cases have been confirmed. In response, 13 countries have banned pork imports from Belgium.

“An outbreak of ASF is a very serious event,” said Matthew Stone of the World Organization for Animal Health. The organization has reported more than 119,000 ASF deaths in 2018. “The authorities of countries affected are under extraordinary pressure.”

Humans can spread ASF and other viruses easily without realizing. People working with pigs need to be careful of the smallest things in order to prevent themselves from tracking disease around, even taking care to make sure they don’t wear the shoes they wore on a swine farm anywhere else when visiting endemic countries.

Experts worry the disease will continue to spread through Europe, as people travel frequently and the continent is home to a large wild boar population that moves freely. Research has also shown that ASF can survive international feed shipments. Anyone involved with the swine industry is urged to follow stringent biosecurity practices, with some countries considering wild boar hunting bans in affected areas.

About ASF

ASF is highly contagious among pigs and wild boars, and has no cure or vaccine.

Infected pigs develop lesions on their skin and internal organs, and usually die within 10 days. They contract the virus from direct contact with infected animals (or their carcasses) or by consuming contaminated meat, which can happen when food waste from humans is used in pig feed. The virus is also transmitted through blood, tissues and other secretions from dead or sick animals.

When it hits a farm, all pigs need to be culled to prevent the virus’s spread, meaning the disease can be economically disastrous for the swine industry.

The disease has no negative health effects in humans.

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Category: Animal Safety, Swine, Animal Health