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African Swine Fever – out of the news, but not out of mind

African Swine Fever (ASF) is now reliably forecast to result in the deaths of a quarter of all pigs in the world, and it looks increasing likely that there is nothing we can do about it.

Dr. Mark Schipp, who is President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has recently been quoted as saying that ASF is the biggest current threat to animal production. Speaking to Associated Press he said:

“I don’t think the species will be lost, but it’s the biggest threat to the commercial raising of pigs that we’ve ever seen. And it’s the biggest threat to all commercial livestock of our generation”
Yes, you did read that – “I don’t think the species will be lost”. The fact that this eminent authority is not eliminating the possibility of a total elimination of a species, demonstrates how seriously the situation is being regarded.

This outbreak was first recorded in August 2018 in China. Since then it has seemed unstoppable, having been confirmed in every province in China, as well as Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. It has also reached many parts of Europe, even as far west as Belgium, although it has yet to be found in a production herd.
Schipp gave an update on the scientific battle with the disease, saying that the 3D structure of the virus has now been unravelled, and hailed this as a major step forward in curbing the disease. An effective vaccine has yet to be even trialled however.

Many nations have been stepping up their bio-security measures to try to halt the spread of ASF into their own territories. Last month Australia deported an individual when officers discovered undeclared pork in their luggage, demonstrating just how seriously they are taking the risk of ASF to their farming community. During the summer, food with traces of ASF was found and destroyed much closer to home, in Northern Ireland. In Global Meat News’ recent webinar UK National Pig Association CEO Zoe Davies stressed the very serious impact on our own pig industry in the event that an ASF outbreak occurs in the UK.

It will be some time yet before the danger has passed.

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