Combating African swine fever

Published on December 09, 2019
Personnel in protective clothing holding a pig

African swine fever (ASF) has been reported in seven of the top 10 pork-producing countries, and U.S. pork producers, veterinarians, and government officials are working hard to keep it out of the United States and ready a response if it’s detected here. The AVMA is part of that effort, and we have a new website resource to help.

The new African swine fever page on avma.org:

  • Helps veterinary team members communicate with clients about African swine fever
  • Provides reporting information and prevention guidelines
  • Outlines biosecurity measures related to travel and animal importation
  • Outlines the roles of companion and mixed-animal veterinarians in preventing the spread of the disease

Why it matters: The basics

African swine fever is a severe viral disease affecting domestic and wild pigs. Though it doesn’t infect humans or threaten public health, it kills about 90 percent of affected pigs and is highly contagious. Outbreaks in other countries – mostly in Asia and Eastern Europe – are driving up pork prices worldwide and could lead to a global pork shortage.

If African swine fever entered the United States – which is the third-largest global pork producer – the impact could be catastrophic, both domestically and globally. There’s no treatment or vaccine for the disease, so prevention is key to protecting pigs from it.

Everyone has a role to play

Led by the U S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), both federal and state agencies are focused on surveillance and prevention to keep African swine fever out of the United States. Swine veterinarians and pork producers are actively working with them.

But they can’t do it alone. Companion and mixed animal veterinarians also have a role to play, as does anyone who travels internationally.

How can companion and mixed animal veterinarians help?

  • Know and follow the requirements for importation (or re-entry) of pets into the United States, particularly from any country in Europe, Asia, or Africa in which ASF has been reported.
  • Immediately report any clinical signs of African swine fever in domestic or wild pigs to your state veterinarian or USDA officials to learn what “next steps” are appropriate. The clinical signs are outlined on the new African swine fever page.
  • Ask clients about their upcoming travel plans, and talk with them about biosecurity precautions if they’re travelling to areas where African swine fever has been detected.
  • Similarly, find out if newly adopted pets may have come from or through countries with African swine fever. Although ASF affects only swine, it can be transmitted through contaminated bedding and other objects, so sanitation is important.

Please take five minutes to read about African swine fever and share this new resource with other team members if your clinic sees any pot-bellied pigs or other swine, or has clients who travel to or import animals from Africa, Europe, or Asia. We can all work together to combat African swine fever.