Since August cases of African Swine Fever have been spreading throughout China, with the risk of the virus spreading to neighboring Asian countries. African Swine Fever, though not contagious to humans, is a virus that is terminal in pigs. This virus spreads easily and has decimated swine populations in China, Russia, and is spreading to parts of Europe. In China, this virus is impacting the pork industry, causing pork prices to fall. This virus has a particular impact in China because pork is the most consumed meat in the country and because of the large populations of pigs in the country.
Originally coming from the reservoir of the soft tick to the warthog in Africa where the virus is endemic in the population, African Swine Fever is a virus spread from pig to pig — both of domestic and wild populations – through all bodily fluids. Its most common route is the respiratory tract but is also transmitted through tissues such as pork meat in which the virus can live in for several weeks.
Why is this virus so dangerous? It is dangerous because the virus survives for weeks and can remain viable even after being frozen, and as mentioned before, can be spread through pork tissues. This is concerning because it means that it can be transported by humans from one farm to another through the transportation of pork meat or contact with swine secretions. In addition, there is no cure or vaccine for this virus, meaning the best treatment is prevention; difficult when the virus is rampant.
Veterinarians and technicians working in the pork industry should be aware of signs of the virus which include lethargy, fever, loss of appetite, hyperemia of the extremities and abdomen, abortion, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhea. Since the virus is a hemorrhagic disease, it can lead to hemorrhage primarily of the lymph nodes and kidneys but can also affect other organs.
Should we be worried in North America? Currently, the virus remains only overseas and travel restrictions on meat products should be able to prevent the spread to North American countries. However, there is always a risk of transmission so those working in the pork industry should be made aware of the symptoms.
In Canada, the pork industry is strictly regulated, with only indoor facilities and strict all-in, all-out regulations in place to prevent the spread of any sort of swine-related diseases. The spread of the virus would likely affect the North American industries in the price of pork as well as stricter regulations.
Disease control and education is an important part of the job to those working in Animal Health fields which also helps the human population and health. Whether this virus is in your country or not, education is key to knowing the signs and preventing the disease.