WPX: African Swine Fever Continues to Spread

Dr. Dave Pyburn, Chief Veterinarian with the National Pork Board, warns that African Swine Fever remains a strong risk in today's world.
calendar icon 5 July 2021
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Dr. Dave Pyburn, Chief Veterinarian with the National Pork Board, discusses the risk of ASF with The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell

Transmission of the disease may have lessened over the last year, but that is because international travel has been reduced significantly, not because of a lessened amount of virus. ASF is still on the advance in parts of Europe and Asia.

“We've seen recently an outbreak on a large new farm in Poland, in the northern part of the country,” said Pyburn. “It’s along the river that borders Germany, so it’s a threat to new areas within Germany, where they continue to find feral swine positives. ASF is also still on the advance in the Philippines and China.”

The National Pork Board has consulted with veterinarians who are traveling into China or are stationed in China long-term, and they’ve been told that ASF continues to kill many pigs there. Some in China have created vaccines to prevent the spread of ASF. These vaccines are known to still transmit ASF but prevent pig death which is perhaps exacerbating the situation. These vaccines allow the pigs to survive ASF, they also pass the disease even farther to different populations, making the situation significantly worse. The National Pork Board has also learned that there’s more than one variant strain in China.

“I've talked to one veterinarian in China who runs his own lab, and he's isolating the virus to detect variants,” said Pyburn. “He has clients come in and say, ‘I know I've got ASF because of what I see in the pigs, now tell me is it the original or is it a variant? And then which variant is it?’ He’s doing those virus isolations in his own lab, and he told me there's at least seven variants over there.”

The virus continues to spread throughout the rest of the world. ASF has spread slowly in Germany, mostly in the Eastern region, but producers continue to routinely find feral swine carcasses that are already dead. These producers can isolate the virus to determine the cause of death. It’s important for producers to remember that the spread of ASF is all about pig-to-pig contact. So far, Germany hasn’t seen any ASF spread in production facilities. They have done heavy surveillance in areas with many feral positives, but no spread has been detected in commercial systems.

“The good thing is a lot of their major production is not located in this Eastern part of the country,” said Pyburn. “It's not there, it's up towards Denmark where they bring the pigs in from, coming into Germany from Denmark. There’s not a lot of domestic pigs there. ASF is not found in the domestic pigs.”

The disease has not been discovered in North or South America yet, and producers hope to keep it that way. The US has a surveillance system that is run by the USDA, and the National Pork Board has discussed strengthening the surveillance program because of the high importance of finding ASF quickly to eradicate it. Borders cannot stop domestic disease, so it’s very important that ASF can be detected quickly to prevent further spread of the disease.

“In China, their systems are set up such that they haul pigs long distance for slaughter, so it ended up that they were hauling ASF virus from one area of the country to another, seeding that new area, and then it took off from there,” said Pyburn. “We learn from other folks that are raising pigs and we learn from other livestock as well. That's where we came up with AgView, by learning from other livestock and their difficulties with getting records from the producer to the state vet.”

AgView is a free, opt-in technology solution from the National Pork Board that helps producers of all sizes and types provide disease status updates and pig movement data to state animal health officials. Participating in AgView will promote business continuity for America’s pig farmers by uniquely making disease traceback and pig movement data available to the USDA and state animal health officials on day one of a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak.

Claire Mintus

Contributing writer

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