African swine fever
Veterinarians who suspect African swine fever in pigs must report it to an Inspector of Livestock immediately. Reports can be made by calling the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.
African swine fever is spreading in eastern Europe and in China
African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs that is continuing to spread from foci in eastern Europe and in China.
The situation in each of these areas is challenging for the local veterinary authorities but if ASF becomes established, further international spread, including potentially to Australia, is possible.
ASF has a complex epidemiology and can affect domestic and feral pigs of all ages, with clinical signs of fever, ‘blotching’ of the skin, incoordination, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Mortality rates are often very high. The gross lesions of ASF are highly variable and are affected by the virulence of the isolate and the course of the disease. There are no treatments or vaccines available.
Pigs usually become infected through direct contact with infected pigs, fomites (contaminated vehicles, equipment or clothing) or through ingestion of material containing infected pig meat or pig products.
The virus survives for long periods under most environmental conditions and at a wide range of pH levels. It is not inactivated by freezing and thawing and is resistant to most commercially available disinfectants. Biting flies and ticks, can also aid spread to susceptible animals.
The diagnostic samples required from suspect cases are
- whole blood from live, suspect animals in EDTA anticoagulant, and
- samples of tonsils, spleen, lymph nodes (gastrohepatic, mesenteric), lung, kidney, liver and ileum collected aseptically at postmortem and forwarded unpreserved.
Humans are not susceptible to ASF.
ASF is present in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa and in areas of eastern Europe. On 23 August 2018, China, the world’s largest pork producing country, reported a fourth outbreak of ASF after an initial diagnosis three weeks before. Investigators traced the disease to the sale of live pigs and estimated that the virus has been circulating since March 2018.
From early July 2018, confirmation of ASF virus in the south-east of Romania have triggered on-going stamping out activity. On 28 August 2018, ASF infection was confirmed in the largest pig operation in Romania, with 138,480 susceptible animals on three properties.
Risk to Australia
Historically, there have been no recorded outbreaks of ASF in Australia.
The Australian Government has reviewed Australia’s current biosecurity processes and possible disease introduction pathways and has strict import conditions in place to manage the risk but these international events highlight the need to maintain vigilance and strong biosecurity practices on farm.
Further reading and more information
- DAWR: Keeping African swine fever out of Australia
- Animal Health Australia: African swine fever current situation
- Agriculture Victoria: Biosecurity guidelines for pig producers
- Centre for Food Security and Public Health factsheet, 2015. 'African swine fever'
- 17 October 2019: Partnering to step up African swine fever preparedness
- 24 September 2019: Herds of pigs, pet pigs and holiday pigs all need a PIC
- 16 April 2019: Reminder to dispose foodscraps responsibly
- 14 February 2019: Positive detection reminder to be vigilant
- 29 January 2019: Pig virus detection highlights biosecurity risks
- 6 December 2018: Protect your pigs - and Australia - from exotic disease