WASHINGTON – The US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) announced on May 16 that it is developing more African Swine Fever (ASF) preparedness efforts with the implementation of a surveillance plan. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the USDA will work with the swine industry, state and veterinary diagnostic laboratories to test for the deadly disease.

“African Swine Fever is an area of high interest among the veterinary community and our swine industry, and we continue to take action to prepare for this deadly disease,” said Greg Ibach, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. “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.”

Ibach also said it would minimize virus spread and support efforts to restore trade markets and animal movements quickly should the disease be detected.

ASF is harmless to humans but deadly to swine. The virus is transmissible via contaminated animal feed, premises, vehicles, equipment and clothing. Warthogs can be a reservoir for the virus and show no clinical signs of infection. Biting flies and ticks 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. There has never been a detected case of ASF in the US. There is also no vaccination for the disease.

The USDA plans to add ASF testing to existing swine fever surveillance. The laboratories will test samples from the same high-risk sources including sick pig submissions to veterinary diagnostic facilities and sick or dead pigs at slaughter. Plus, pigs that have factors like exposure to feral swine or garbage feeding will be tested due to the higher risk for disease.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) showed its support for the USDA’s plan to increase the surveillance for ASF.

“US pork producers are already suffering as a result of numerous trade disputes with top-importing countries, and an outbreak of ASF in the United States would be devastating,” said David Herring, president of NPPC. “That’s why it’s so important we have a strong surveillance program, to ensure early notification of any spread of the virus.”

Additionally, the USDA will coordinate 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 and other foreign animal diseases.

Some additional measures the agency plans to take include:

•    Working with officials in Canada and Mexico on a North American coordinated approach to ASF defense, response and trade maintenance;

•    Working with US 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 US Customs and Border Protection to sniff out illegal products at key US commercial sea and airports;

•    Collaborating with states, industry and producers to ensure everyone follows 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 US pork industry, producers and States to be ready should a detection ever occur in the United States; and

•    Expanding the testing capabilities and testing capacity of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.