Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) is on the minds of pork producers, but the U.S. pork industry needs to be vigilant about other disease threats on the horizon.

“A key threat is African Swine Fever (ASF), which continues to spread in Russia. It has moved into Poland and Lithuania, where it was recently found in wild boars,” said Dr. Patrick Webb, director of swine health for the Pork Checkoff.

Russia placed an embargo on European pork when ASF was introduced to the European Union (EU). The European Food Safety Authority’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare recently assessed the risk of ASF becoming endemic in the EU’s eastern neighboring countries and its spread to unaffected areas. The panel found that the movement of contaminated pork being fed to backyard swine to offset high feed costs was a major challenge in controlling the outbreak of ASF.

Other challenges include disease spread by contaminated vehicles and infected pigs, as well as delays in the detection and reporting of ASF by farmers.

Is the U.S. at Risk?
The threat of ASF spreading further into the EU has European animal health authorities on edge, but could ASF make it to our shores?

“We don’t share a common border with countries that have ASF, but the international movement of people and animal products puts the U.S. pork industry at risk for disease introduction,” Webb said.

This requires constant vigilance, such as during this year’s Sochi Olympics, when USDA warned U.S. residents not to bring home products containing meat. This was done to reduce the risk of introducing foreign animal diseases that exist in Russia, such as ASF, Classical Swine Fever and Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), into the United States through contaminated food products.

Visitors from countries with these diseases also present risks, especially if they’ve had contact with infected livestock or farms, Webb said. “Clothing or shoes that are contaminated can pose a risk, if not properly cleaned and disinfected before coming across our borders.”

Not Human Health Issues
It’s important to note that these diseases are not human health issues. However, meat products, clothing or shoes contaminated with viruses can result in a foreign animal disease outbreak. “This would threaten the health and welfare of pigs and have a severe economic impact on pork producers and animal agriculture,” Webb said.

The World Organization for Animal Health maintains a list of foreign animal diseases (FADs) that would limit trade and commerce. Those that can infect pigs are FMD, ASF, Swine Vesicular Disease and Classical Swine Fever, Webb said.

FADs must be reported and are considered regulatory diseases in the United States. If a FAD is detected, state and federal animal health authorities would have regulatory authority to implement response plans, including measures to quarantine farms and stop movement of susceptible livestock in affected areas to limit the spread of the disease.

Nationally coordinated disease surveillance would help determine the extent of a FAD outbreak, Webb said. To reduce the risk of disease spread, new rules would be implemented regarding the movement and biosecurity of healthy susceptible livestock.

Secure Pork Supply
State and federal response plans also provide insight into what information is needed after a FAD outbreak to allow producers in the affected area to move pigs. “This information has been valuable as the Pork Board has helped develop a secure pork supply plan to help maintain business continuity in the event of an outbreak,” Webb said.

The secure pork supply plan is currently under development, he added. The Pork Checkoff provided the initial funding to begin the planning process, with development costs being paid for by USDA’s APHIS Veterinary Services. The plan development is being coordinated through Iowa State University’s Center for Food Security and Public Health.

The producer components of the proposed plan focus on:

  • a valid preharvest traceability system based on the industry-developed swine ID program standards
  • nationally standardized biosecurity
  • disease surveillance

Producers Play Key Role
Producers who voluntarily enroll in the plan would agree to implement program standards and allow access by state animal health authorities to the movement, biosecurity and surveillance information necessary to demonstrate the absence of a FAD infection on production sites.

“Instead of doing this after an outbreak, producers would develop this capacity as a preventive measure,” said Webb, who noted that enrollment in the plan will not guarantee movement of pigs after an outbreak.

However, enrolled producers will provide information in advance that state veterinarian
would need to determine if movement will be allowed, which should shorten the time frame for a decision in the event of a FAD outbreak.

“As we move forward in developing a secure pork supply plan, pork producers play a critical role in early disease detection and overall preparedness for a FAD outbreak,” Webb said. “It’s important that we all remain vigilant, even while PEDV continues to dominate the headlines.”

Tools to Help You Be Prepared
Visit the Pork Store at pork.org to order FAD Push Packs, including information about biosecurity, FAD surveillance, fact sheets and information on what you should do in the event of a FAD outbreak.