COLUMBIA, Mo. – U.S. pork producers should be aware of an emerging swine disease, says University of Missouri Extension veterinarian Corinne Bromfield.

Chinese pork producers reported the 13th outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) Sept. 6. It has appeared since August in several locations in China hundreds of miles apart. This leaves researchers scratching their heads over how it spreads from one area to another, says Bromfield.

This is the first time ASF has appeared in eastern Asia; concerns about the impact on the pork industry run high globally. The United Nations called for an emergency meeting of animal experts Sept. 5 to halt the spread of the fatal disease.

Its devastating effects include high fever, anorexia, diarrhea, abortion, skin hemorrhages and death. Groups of pigs huddle and shiver together, breathe abnormally and cough. Pigs usually die within a week of infection. Call your veterinarian immediately if you see high morbidity or mortality, skin discoloration or other signs of the disease in your herd, says Bromfield.

ASF spreads quickly from pig to pig through direct secretions, on contaminated objects and through ticks. No vaccine exists to control the disease. Culling remains the only control option. Infection could occur during the shipping of meat from one area or country to another, says Bromfield.

ASF virus can contaminate pork products and remain in pork for a long time. It does not infect humans who eat the contaminated pork, Bromfield says.

“We do not have ASF in the United States at this time, but if it were to come here, rapid detection is our best chance for eradicating the disease,” Bromfield says.

Hog feed made with ingredients from outside of the United States could put U.S. hogs at risk, she says.

“ASF is considered a trade-limiting disease,” Bromfield says. “Most countries have regulations prohibiting or controlling live swine and pork product imports from other countries.”

MU Extension economist Scott Brown says the recent outbreak of ASF in China could have a huge impact on the pork industry at a time when hog prices are already low. It also could potentially raise prices for U.S. pork producers who could find new export markets. China produces and consumes half of the world’s pork, Brown says.

Bromfield says pork producers would benefit from a review of farm biosecurity practices now. She recommends that producers ask their feed suppliers about the origin of their feed and what biosecurity measures they employ.

MU Extension swine veterinarians, engineers and economists are planning a set of biosecurity workshops in Missouri this winter.

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