August 2023

Two recent studies on the devastating impact of an African swine fever outbreak in the United States underscore the importance of biosecurity for pork producers.

A May 2023 Iowa State University working paper showed that an outbreak of the disease in the United States would result in as much as $75 billion in losses to the industry, including a cut of 60,000 jobs. Pork prices would plummet between 50% and 60% and stay low for three years.

A more recent North Carolina State University (NCSU) study, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, modeled how an outbreak of the virus might spread among pig farms in the southeast United States.

"Between-farm movements of swine were the predominant route of [African swine fever] transmission with an average contribution of 71.1%, while local spread and movement of vehicles were less critical with average contributions of 14.6% and 14.4%," the researchers concluded.

The findings raise the importance of implementing biosecurity best practices. Pigs infected with African swine fever may not show signs of infection before dying, which could cause the virus to spread quickly throughout a farm or facility.

"The longer ASF continues to circulate around the globe, the greater the threat to the U.S. swine industry," said Dr. Jack Shere, APHIS Associate Administrator and head of the Agency's ASF domestic efforts. "Prevention is our best investment as it saves billions of dollars and only costs millions. In an industry which exports nearly 30 percent of its production, the trade losses alone would be devastating," he added.

One-stop resource to help prevent African swine fever

USDA plans to invest more than $500 million to keep the disease out of the United States. As part of that investment, USDA is raising awareness of African swine fever to help producers and veterinarians quickly find and share actionable information to defend their herds and livelihoods through the Protect Our Pigs campaign.

Pork producers and others can find the latest biosecurity best practices and control measures at Protect Our Pigs as well as free resources like custom videos, downloadable materials such as biosecurity action plans, and interactive training guides that help educate and train workers and visitors.

The NCSU study also showed that control actions like quarantine, depopulation, movement restrictions, contact tracing, and enhanced surveillance had a big impact on reducing secondary infections.

[Source: National Hog Farmer 14 August 2023]