First ASF case reaches China

China has encountered its first case of African Swine Fever (ASF), according to reports from animal health officials in the country.
calendar icon 5 August 2018
clock icon 4 minute read

The highly contagious disease was identified Aug. 1 on a small farm with a herd of 383 pigs. The area in question is located in northeast China, in the Shenbei New District, Shenyang City, in the Liaoning province. According to published reports, Liaoning authorities have since culled nearly 1,000 hogs to try to keep ASF in check.

This is a swine-dense area 130 miles from the North Korean border and 800 miles from Japan (in straight line across the water). It’s also 652 miles from Russia and 1,242 miles from Mongolia.

As of Friday morning, Aug. 3, the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center confirmed that 47 pigs had died from the disease.

A special report from the US Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) outlined information about the Level II outbreak, which the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports has been contained with the slaughter of approximately 1,000 pigs.

In accordance with the Level II provisions, the provincial government launched an emergency epidemic response, including deploying experts to investigate virus exposure and the area, monitor and cull pigs and employ disinfection strategies. Transporting pigs in and out of the area has been banned, as has the feeding of untreated food waste.

Half the world’s pigs

Notably, China has more than half of the world’s pig population, with thousands of backyard farms and large-scale systems operating in the northern, central and southern regions.

The country also ranks No. 1 in global pork consumption. A major concern about ASF surfacing in China is its potential spread to additional Chinese pig herds, as well as to Japan, the Korean Peninsula and other parts of Asia.

Paul Sundberg, DVM, executive director, SHIC, noted that as of Aug. 3, no other outbreaks in China had been reported. But if the ASF virus has moved to other herds in the region the challenge to contain the disease will be daunting.

ASF expanded outside of Africa in 2007, where it was reported in Georgia. From there the virus spread to the Russian Federation and eastern Europe, including EU countries in the Baltic States, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic. Due to the virus’ rapid spread in commercial herds as well as in wild pigs, producers in Latvia and Romania have now encountered ASF outbreaks.

‘Major concern’

“The introduction into China is a major concern,” Sundberg emphasised, “because it is thousands of miles from any known ASF cases.”

It’s not clear how the disease was introduced to the herd, but it is highly contagious and is known to travel long distances, not only by infected pigs but also through contaminated food, animal feed, international travelers and other articles. The virus’ incubation period is 15 days. ASF does not infect people.

There is no vaccine for ASF, therefore, surveillance, rapid response and restricting animal movement and sales are the primary control tools.

“This outbreak again illustrates that protection against foreign animal diseases (FADs) not only involves vigilance at our borders, but on each of our farms,” Sundberg said. “Restrictions on imported foodstuffs, especially meats, as well as travelers, especially from countries battling FADs, should be examined.”

US pork producers and veterinarians should heed this development as a warning to review their own FAD prevention strategies and preparedness should a FAD reach US shores. These strategies should include an investigation into the Secure Pork Supply Plan (SPS), which you can learn more about from the National Pork Board, your state pork board, America Association of Swine Veterinarians or the SPS website at

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