DES MOINES – The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) canceled the World Pork Expo 2019 “out of an abundance of caution” citing the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in China and other parts of Asia. However, NPPC noted that the risk of ASF infecting the US swineherd is considered negligible.

The World Pork Expo held annually in Des Moines, Iowa, hosts more than 20,000 visitors over a three-day period. The event is held on the Iowa State Fairgrounds and visitors include individuals from ASF-positive regions, NPPC said. The decision to cancel the event came during the NPPC Legislative Action Conference, which featured more than 100 pork producers gathering in Washington to meet with members of Congress.

“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” said David Herring, NPPC president and a pork producer from Lillington, North Carolina. "The health of the US swine herd is paramount; the livelihoods of our producers depend on it. Prevention is our only defense against ASF and NPPC will continue to do all it can to prevent its spread to the United States.”

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recently confirmed the first outbreak of African Swine Fever in the Tibet Autonomous Region. According to the OIE, China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA) has reported 118 ASF outbreaks detected across 28 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities since the agency confirmed the country’s first-ever ASF outbreak in Liaoning Province on Aug. 3, 2018. Approximately 1 million pigs have been culled in an effort to halt further disease spread, OIE said.

Outbreaks also have been reported in Mongolia and Vietnam, while Cambodia reported the country’s first-ever ASF outbreak in Rattanakiri Province.

“The widespread presence of African swine fever in China’s swine herd, the world’s largest by far, takes the threat of this swine disease to an entirely new level,” Herring said. “We ask all producers, travelers and the general public to recognize the heightened risk since the first outbreak was reported in China last year and to heed biosecurity protocols in support of US agriculture.”

Cases of ASF also have been reported across eastern Europe and Belgium.

To address the threat, NPPC is asking Congress to fund 600 new US Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors.

“Our farmers are highly export dependent,” Herring said. “An ASF outbreak would immediately close our export markets at a time when we are already facing serious trade headwinds.

“The retaliatory tariffs we currently face in some of our largest export markets due to trade disputes are among the factors that prompted a conservative decision regarding World Pork Expo. US pork producers are already operating in very challenging financial conditions.”

ASF is harmless to humans, but deadly to swine. The virus causes a hemorrhagic disease in pigs, warthogs, European wild boar and American feral pigs. It is transmissible via contaminated animal feed, premises, vehicles, equipment and clothing.

Biting flies and ticks also can transmit the disease by taking blood meals from an infected animal and passing on the virus to other susceptible animals. Pigs can become infected through direct contact with infected pigs, and garbage containing unprocessed infected pig meat also are vectors for transmission. Currently, there is no vaccine available to treat the disease.