By Dave Fairfield, Senior Vice President of Feed Services
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced May 16 that it is implementing a surveillance plan as part of its efforts to detect and respond to African Swine Fever (ASF) should it enter the United States.
As part of the plan, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) said it will work with the swine industry, states, and veterinary diagnostic laboratories to test for ASF.
ASF, first described in the 1920s in Kenya, is a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of wild and domestic pigs with extremely high morbidity and mortality rates. ASF does not pose a risk to human health. The current on-going ASF outbreak first was reported in China by authorities on Aug. 3, 2018. Through May 9, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reports 129 outbreaks in China within 31 of its 33 administrative divisions. ASF outbreaks also have been reported in Belgium, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, Vietnam, Cambodia and Mongolia. ASF has never been reported in the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand.
“While we are confident that our overlapping safeguards will continue to keep ASF out of the United States, an enhanced surveillance program will serve as an early warning system, helping us find any potential disease much more quickly,” said USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. “It will also minimize virus spread and support efforts to restore trade markets and animal movements as quickly as possible should the disease be detected.”
APHIS said it will add ASF testing to its existing classical swine fever surveillance program. Under this change, testing will be conducted on samples from the same high-risk animals, using the same overall process, but will test for both diseases instead of just classical swine fever. USDA said it expects to begin the ASF surveillance efforts within weeks, and will implement the full surveillance plan during the spring.
The surveillance effort will test samples from high-risk animals, including sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic laboratories; sick or dead pigs at slaughter; and pigs from herds that are at greater risk for disease through such factors as exposure to feral swine or garbage feeding.
In addition, USDA said it will work with state and federal partners to identify and investigate incidents involving sick or dead feral swine to determine if they should be tested for ASF or other foreign animal diseases.
The surveillance testing of commercial swine herds is an addition to USDA’s overall African swine fever prevention effort, which currently includes the following components:
- Working with officials in Canada and Mexico on a coordinated North American approach to ASF defense, response and trade maintenance;
- Working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry, paying particular attention to cargo, passengers and products arriving from China and other ASF-affected countries;
- Increasing detector dog teams with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to uncover illegal products at key U.S. commercial sea and airports;
- Collaborating with states, industry and producers to ensure adherence to strict on-farm biosecurity protocols and best practices (including for garbage feeding in states where that is allowed);
- Restricting imports of pork and pork products from affected countries;
- Coordinating closely on response plans with the U.S. pork industry, producers and states to be prepared should ASF ever be detected in the United States; and
- Expanding the testing capabilities and capacity of USDA’s National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
More information on APHIS’s ASF-prevention activities is available here.