U.S – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has initiated an outreach and awareness campaign dubbed “Protect Our Pigs”, to prevent the introduction and spread of African swine fever (ASF) in the U.S.
Through the campaign, APHIS will support commercial pork producers, veterinarians and pig owners with information and resources to safeguard America’s swine population and the pork industry.
“African swine fever is already devastating pork industries and economies around the globe, and if detected in the U.S., it could ravage our swine population, nation’s pork industry, and farming communities,” said Jenny Lester Moffitt, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.
ASF is a deadly, highly contagious viral disease that affects both domestic and wild pigs. It does not affect human health but quickly spreads between swine populations.
People can also unknowingly spread the disease on their clothing, farming equipment or by transporting uncooked pork products.
According to Feed Strategy, ASF has never been detected in the U.S. but has recently been confirmed in countries as close as the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Currently, there is no treatment or effective vaccine for the disease.
The U.S. is one of the world’s largest pork producers and the second largest exporter of pork globally. If the disease were to hit it, it is estimated it could cost the nation U.S. $50 billion dollars over 10 years.
Commercial pork producers, veterinarians and pig owners are among the nation’s first line of defense against ASF, the USDA says.
It notes that there are more than 60,000 pork producers nationwide who employ more than half a million workers. An estimated 250,000 to 1 million potbellied pigs are kept as pets, and there are more than 1,500 swine veterinarians.
APHIS is deploying a variety of outreach efforts to support these critical stakeholders. The new Protect Our Pigs website, will house materials such as downloadable fact sheets and posters, instructional videos, shareable social media graphics, a new interactive biosecurity guide, and offer the latest disease updates.
In case ASF is detected in the U.S., APHIS will also be ready to respond immediately with actionable information and resources for pig owners and the public.
“USDA is working every day to stop this disease from breaching our borders and the Protect Our Pigs campaign is just one of many ways we are doing that.
“We are also meeting with pork producers to find out how we can best support their ongoing work in this area, increasing swine testing and conducting innovative vaccine research. Together, we can fight this disease and protect the U.S. pig population, people’s livelihoods and way of life,” said Dr. Jack Shere, Associate Administrator at APHIS and former Chief Veterinary Officer.
Meanwhile, Italy is set to cull about 1,000 pigs after the first cases of African swine fever were detected in domestic pigs in the country.