The U.S. hog industry has been on high alert since African swine fever broke out in China in 2018, and that country has seen the slaughter of 1.170 million pigs due to the virus that is only contagious in pigs and wild boars.
Prior to the 2018 Chinese ASF cases, the disease has been spreading across the Caucasus region, Europe and Asia since 2007, but as of yet has not reached the United States. With ASF spreading, a team of researchers from around the world, including some from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, set out to measure the risk of ASF entering the United States through the smuggling of pork products in air passenger luggage. Their findings were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The study found:
- the risk of ASF arriving in the United States has nearly doubled since the ASF epidemic began in 2018;
- five specific airports account for over 90% of the potential risk: Newark-New Jersey, George Bush-Houston-Texas, Los Angeles-California, John F. Kennedy-New York and San Jose-California; and
- there’s a high probability that the ASF virus is already reaching the U.S. borders through smuggling of pork products; however, likely due to the work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the virus has not entered the country.
“If ASF were to enter the United States, its spread would cause immense economic damage to the pork industry and food production more broadly, leading to the loss of billions of dollars for swine producers,” says study co-author Andres Perez, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety. “Our study’s findings can help support decision-making for disease surveillance strategies in the U.S. swine industry and transportation hubs.”
Perez says that the University of Minnesota Center for Animal Health and Food Safety will continue working closely with Minnesota and U.S. swine veterinarians and producers to increase preparedness and awareness to prevent or mitigate the impact of a hypothetical ASF epidemic.
Perez’s expertise includes veterinary epidemiology, prevention and control of food animal diseases and swine health.