Current situation with African swine fever (ASF)
What is ASF?
ASF is an exotic, highly contagious viral disease affecting both domesticated and wild pigs. It spreads rapidly through contact with infected animals or contact with contaminated pens, trucks, clothing or feed. Pigs can also remain carriers for the disease for quite some time.
Australia is currently free of ASF. However, if ASF was to enter Australia, it could severely damage our pig meat and associated industries and have devastating consequences for our 2,700 pork producers and 34,000 people working in the industry.
If you see anything unusual in your pigs (no matter how insignificant it may seem) or if you have a number of sudden deaths in your herd, you should report it immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
What’s the current situation?
ASF has been present in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s, and increasingly found in eastern Europe since 2016.
Since 2018, ASF has moved into Western Europe (notably Belgium) for the first time, and into Asia. It continues to move quickly through South-East Asia over the past few months, with cases being confirmed in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, South Korea, the Philipines, Timor Leste, Indonesia and most recently Papua New Guinea.
Australia is working closely with counterparts in Timor Leste, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to assess the situation and provide assistance.
In February 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations issued an alert which outlined a heightened risk of ASF in the Asia and Pacific region. This risk stems from two key factors:
• Intensified travel around the Lunar New Year (12 February 2021).
• Possible circulation of new variants of the ASF virus.
Important points from the FAO alert include:
• Millions of people are expected to travel for the Lunar New Year (starting 12 February 2021).
• The vast majority of traffic will be to and from countries in Asia.
• Travel increases the risk of spreading ASF, since the virus can be transmitted via infected raw pork and pork products and contact with infected animals as well as contaminated clothing, vehicles and other equipment.
• Recent, credible media reports (1, 2, 3) indicate new forms of ASF may be circulating in Asia.
• The new variants reportedly cause limited clinical signs (e.g. chronic fatigue) and little-to-no mortality.
• “Hidden” infection with these new ASF variants dramatically increases the difficulty of detection of infected pigs.
The Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud distributed a media release on 10 February 2021, ‘African swine fever variant ‘perfect storm’ of risk’ urging heightened biosecurity vigilance following reports of new variants of ASF emerging in our region. Key points from this media release include:
• Variants are showing less obvious signs of the disease which increases the likelihood of it going undetected and uncontrolled.
• With Lunar Chinese New Year celebrations approaching, more gift items arriving and increased travel in the region, this is the perfect storm of risk.
• People who are unsure about the biosecurity status of goods that they have brought into Australia or received in the mail should report a biosecurity concern by calling the See. Secure. Report. hotline on 1800 798 636 or completing an online reporting form.
Where can I find more information about ASF?
Department of Agriculture – You can go to agriculture.gov.au to find out more about ASF, including what signs to look out for in pigs, as well as biosecurity requirements for incoming passengers and for people who are purchasing goods online from overseas.
You can also visit your relevant State or Territory Department of Agriculture websites for information.
How can you reduce the risk?
One of the easiest ways you can protect Australia’s pork industry from ASF and other disease threats is to feed your pigs the right feed. Food waste that has come into contact with meat or contains meat must not be fed to pigs. This type of food waste, known as swill, could contain viruses such as ASF virus, which can be passed onto your pigs if they consume the infected food waste. Feeding swill to pigs is illegal in Australia.
Sound on-farm biosecurity practices are essential for anyone who has pigs, from commercial pig farmers to backyard pig owners. Ensure you keep good animal health and visitor records, limit movement (e.g. people, pigs, vehicles, equipment, waste etc.) on and off farm property, implement insect, rodent and feral pig controls to get started.
Limit contact between domestic pigs and feral pigs, and do not allow someone to come into contact with your pigs if they have recently returned from overseas.
Resources for producers:
- African swine fever: Disease in-focus (pdf - 71 KB) – a brief summary of ASF, what to look out for and how it can cause disease in pigs.
- ASF related webinars – The OIE Sub-Regional Representation for South East Asia has been developing a series of webinars on ASF-related topics. These webinars aim at providing scientific information, shared experience, tips, options to countries of the sub-region and are targeting a large public, including key staff from Veterinary Services or pig industry which would not be able to physically attend workshops during this crisis period.
- Spot the difference: African swine fever vs. swine influenza (pdf - 55 KB) – Confused about the difference between ASF and swine influenza (swine flu)? Whilst both are diseases of pigs, they are caused by different viruses and affect pigs in different ways. Check out this fact sheet to find out the differences between the two.
- ASF FAQ – answers to frequently asked questions about the disease.
Emergency preparedness and emergency response
- Fact Sheet - Responding to African swine fever (pdf - 89 KB) – outlines what you need to know in the event of an ASF outbreak.
- Fact Sheet - Control measures for African swine fever (pdf - 69 KB) – outlines the types of control measures which may be used in an ASF response.
- Fact Sheet - Stakeholders role in an African swine fever response (pdf - 79 KB) – outlines what industry stakeholder groups need to know and what role they play during an ASF response.
- Fact Sheet - Valuation and compensation in an ASF response (pdf - 465 KB) – outlines what compensation is and how it’s determined.
- EAD Foundation Course – If you wish to gain an understanding of Australia’s EAD preparedness and response plans, you can enrol in the EAD Foundation online course. The online course provides livestock producers, veterinarians, veterinary students, government personnel and emergency workers with foundation knowledge for further training in the Emergency Animal Disease Training Program.
- Australian Pork biosecurity – The Australian Pork Limited webpage outlines resources and information to protect your pig herd by practicing on-farm biosecurity to prevent an incursion of ASF on your property.
- Preparing your business to survive an emergency animal disease outbreak: A 30 minute Plan for Piggeries – This planning tool from Australian Pork Limited will assist you in developing an EAD survival plan. Thirty minutes spent completing this plan could improve the resilience of your business if an EAD occurs.
- Farm biosecurity for pigs – You will find the tools to implement the simple, everyday biosecurity practices to protect the health of your livestock, limit production losses and help maintain market access for Australia’s pig farmers.
- PigPass – Whether you only have one pig, ten pigs or 100, no matter the purpose for keeping them you must have a Property Identification Code (PIC). You can contact your relevant State or Territory Department of Agriculture to establish a PIC. The reporting of movements of pigs on and off your property is mandatory in the PigPass database. This will assist tracing pigs in the event of a disease incursion. This is free to use and register.
- This little piggy had none: Don’t give people food to pigs (pdf - 53 KB) – Did you know that there are things pigs are not allowed to eat? There are strict laws in Australia that determine what can and cannot be fed to pigs.
- What can I feed my pigs? – Outlines the appropriate food to feed your pigs and the dangers of swill feeding. It contains a number of state and territory resources on swill feeding.
- Feral pig management – visit your State or Territory Department of Agriculture website.
New South Wales
Resources for veterinarians
- Emergency animal diseases – A field guide for Australian veterinarians – will help veterinarians in the field include appropriate EADs in their differential diagnoses, and take appropriate action if presented with signs of an unusual disease.
- African swine fever: A guide for veterinarians (pdf - 1 MB) – A guide from Biosecurity Queensland to help veterinarians identify the signs of African swine fever, sampling and laboratory testing advice and information about the virus.