African Swine Fever (ASF) is a deadly and devastating infectious disease in pigs.
Although ASF was identified more than 100 years ago and was primarily confined to the African continent; it has just recently become widespread in Europe and Asia.
"Globally since 2021, and as of 14 October 2023, ASF has been reported in 52 countries." - World Organization for Animal Health, 2023.
ASF is caused by a virus that belongs to the Asfarviridae family and receives the name of the disease it causes: ASV virus (ASFv). ASFv infects only suids, i.e., humans and other wild and domestic species are not at risk for getting ASF. However, domestic pigs are very sensitive to the ASFv infection and very frequently die within hours or a few days after the infection.
Currently only Vietnam has authorized the use of vaccines in an attempt to contain the spread of ASF in the country. Those vaccines are still under evaluation, and their efficacy and safety has yet to be better proven before the USA and other countries decide to allow their utilization to prevent or control ASF in their swine population.
The economic impact due to ASF is not only related to the death of infected animals. Since there are not effective options of treatment and control of the disease, all pigs from a positive operation need to be culled to avoid the spread of ASF to other properties. Additionally, surrounding swine farms might need to be included in the culling plan, depending on its distance to the positive farm. To make it worse, when a country is declared ASF positive, export of pork might be seriously compromised.
Considering that the US is the 3rd biggest pork producer country and 2nd pork exporter in the world, it is of extreme importance that ASF does not reach the the United States. Within this context, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed excellent educational materials which the primary goal is to bring awareness to the population about ASF and how to keep it out of the country. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), along with the Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (ADDL), has also been pro-actively involved in preparing Ohio to prevent, diagnose, and control ASF.
By Dr. Talita Resende, October/2023.