The Global Spread of African Swine Fever
African swine fever has been terrorizing pigs and pig farmers across the globe. Originating in Africa, the disease has found its way to Europe and Asia. While the disease has been well-contained in Europe because of tighter security measures, Southeast Asia has been hit hard. The pig populations of many Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines, as well as East Asian countries like China and Korea, have been devastated by the disease.
Fortunately, humans are completely immune to African swine fever. Infected pigs, on the other hand, suffer from symptoms which include fever, decreased appetite, and weakness. Internal bleeding may be apparent, as well as respiratory problems like coughing and difficulty breathing.
Why Should We Care Though?
While we may be immune to the disease, our economies are not. The effects of the disease have reached far beyond the confines of the pig community. The deaths of hundreds of millions of pigs have led to deficits in pork supply, causing international pork prices to increase drastically. This has also jeopardized industries related to pig feed, like the corn and soybean industries.
There have been several transmission vectors identified. African swine fever can spread through direct contact with infected pigs, via insects such as ticks, and most notably via meat products. The virus is able to survive for several months in processed meat and several years in frozen carcasses, which has been a cause of concern surrounding international pork trading. In October, a packet of confiscated sausages at a Japanese airport was found to contain the virus. Even the garbage from pork products can pose a risk.
Potential solutions which include gene editing and vaccination are currently being developed. In the meantime, readers might want to avoid buying pork-based products when going overseas.