U.S. officials keeping eye out for African swine fever
BLACKSBURG, Va. — While African swine fever has not been found in the United States, pork producers are on high alert to keep it that way.
“African swine fever virus is a contagious viral disease of pigs, and its spread across Europe and Asia has caused concern among U. S. pork producers and veterinary official,” Dr. Charles Broadus, Virginia’s state veterinarian said.
“It affects only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat or food safety concern,” he said. “But when introduced, it can spread among pig farms, and so the focus is on keeping the disease out of the U.S. and recognizing it quickly if it does make it here.”
“The United States has never had a case of African swine fever and there are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine and DHS Customs and Border Production to prevent entry into the United States,” Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications for the National Pork Board, said in an e-mail to The Delmarva Farmer. “There is a national response plan for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.”
Virginia is joining with USDA, the leader in efforts to prevent this Foreign Disease from entering this country and neighbors to the north and south and other pork producing states.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Medicine Division participated in the recent USDA National African Swine Fever Planning Exercise to learn about the disease and keeping it from U.S. shores.
Heather Overton, assistant director of the North Carolina Division of Veterinary Services, said veterinarians from 14 states participated.
“We are approaching this as we would any foreign animal disease, which means our focus is on prevention, keeping the disease out of Virginia” and the United States, said Elaine Lidholm, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s director of communications. “I think it is safe to say that all pork producers already are aware of ASF and it’s probably accurate to say they are on high alert. They already have to observe strict biosecurity measures. Because the pork industry is highly integrated, they receive this information from the corporate headquarters of the companies for which they raise the pigs.”
The World Organization for Animal Health defines African swine fever as “a highly contagious hemorrhagic viral disease of domestic and wild pigs, which is responsible for serious economic and production losses.”
The disease is one of international concern as reports of its spread in Asia continue to grow.
China and Vietnam are among the countries with an increasing number of cases.
“In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and collaborated with USDA,” Cunningham said.
She noted that the World Organization for Animal Health considers ASF a trade-limiting disease of pigs.
This makes countries with confirmed cases subject to international trade restricting to help reduce the chance of spreading the disease through trade.
The pork council stresses that while AFS is not a threat to human health it can be transmitted to pigs through the feeding of food waste containing contaminated pork products.
“The Swine Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste containing meat to pigs to ensure it is safe,” the council said.
It said USDA does not allow pigs or fresh products from areas or regions of the world reporting AFS to be imported to the United States. It urges international travelers to be diligent in following all rules and regulations related to U. S. Customs and Border Patrol reentry declarations.
Cunningham said the pork council has a full list of producer resources and tools about ASF. It can be found at pork.org/FAD or at Pork.to/factsaboutpork.
Information is also available by telephone at 1-800-456-7675.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925