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Preparing for African Swine Fever

The good news is that pig diseases are typically not people diseases, and there is no human health concern regarding an outbreak of ASF. The meat will still be safe to eat.

Dave Stender
Dave Stender
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PRIMGHAR, Iowa — Pork producers are concerned about foreign animal diseases, so recently a workshop was held to help producers begin preparing for a future outbreak.

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One of the diseases most concerning to swine producers is African Swine Fever (ASF). The disease was confined to Africa, where it is endemic, but from Africa it moved north infecting wild pigs and commercial swine production in Russia. A few years ago, it spread to China and has since infected Southeast Asia and much of Europe in the wild pig population. A little over a year ago, the disease entered the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The rapid spread of this disease and the proximity to the continental U.S. has producers concerned.

It is also a concern for those of us that like to eat pork and bacon. The good news is that pig diseases are typically not people diseases, and there is no human health concern regarding an outbreak of ASF. The meat will still be safe to eat.

However, what will happen for pork consumers is likely price swings based on supply and demand. If ASF comes to the U.S., the pork sold to other countries will have to be consumed locally because other countries do not want to risk infecting their own swine. Exports won’t resume until producers can show that U.S. pork is ASF-free, or a country decides to open U.S. pork imports.

At first, pork prices will likely be reduced because of the drop in pork exports; however, the longer it takes to eradicate the disease, the more difficult it will be to maintain a large supply of pork, which will likely cause pork prices to increase.


To respond to this challenge, the industry has been working on prevention, which includes verifying premises identification, enhancing biosecurity, and maintaining detailed records. There is a Swine Health Improvement Plan, abbreviated SHIP, that will be used by the industry to lessen the impact ( https://iowaagriculture.gov/ship ).

Additionally, dogs are currently used at airports to stop infected product from entering the U.S.

Still, two major risks are garbage feeding and foreign travel. Thankfully, most states have outlawed garbage feeding to swine or have specific rules for cooking garbage. However, in states with wild hog populations, this is still a concern as the animals may consume trash that has been thrown on the ground. Foreign travel is a risk because the virus is hardy. Travelers coming back from an infected country should disinfect their shoes and stay away from all swine including wild pigs for a minimum of five days.

Whatever is done to lessen the risk, it is impossible to eliminate the risk. If ASF breaks in the U.S., there is a plan in place to eradicate the disease as quickly as possible. A team from the United States Department of Agriculture will work with the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, and producers will be asked to stop moving pigs for at least 72 hours, to depopulate infected pigs, and to have a disposal plan in place.

Producers are encouraged to work with Extension to help them with preparation plans in case of an outbreak.

Dave Stender is a swine specialist for Iowa State University Extension.

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