THE rapid onset of African Swine Fever (ASF) in China, and its detection in areas more than 1,000 km apart, could mean the deadly pig virus may quickly spread to other Asian countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says.
The eighth case of ASF follows one on a farm west of Shanghai where the disease killed 80 pigs and another 379 were destroyed.
There is no effective vaccine to protect pigs from the disease. While ASF poses no direct threat to human health, the most virulent forms are lethal in 100 per cent of infected animals.
Chinese authorities have culled more than 38,000 pigs in four provinces since ASF was first detected on August 3.
China accounts for about half the global population of swine, estimated at 500 million. Its value chain ranges from small family holdings to large-scale commercial operators.
An FAO statement says ASF’s detection and the diverse geographical spread of the outbreak have raised fears the disease will move across borders to neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia or the Korean peninsula, where trade and consumption of pork products is also high.
The ASF virus is very hardy and can survive long periods in very cold and very hot weather, and even in dried or cured pork products. The strain detected in China is similar to one that infected pigs in eastern Russia in 2017 but, so far, there is no conclusive evidence of this latest outbreak’s source or linkages.
“The movement of pig products can spread diseases quickly and, as in this case of African Swine Fever, it’s likely that the movement of such products, rather than live pigs, has caused the spread of the virus to other parts of China,” says FAO chief veterinarian Juan Lubroth.
The virus is transmitted by ticks and direct contact between animals, contaminated food, animal feed and people.
FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases regional coordinator Wantanee Kalpravidh says the immediate response to the China outbreak will be to stamp it out as quickly as possible.