The urgency to prepare for African swine fever (ASF) in this country, something the U.S. pork industry has been doing for three years now, kicked up a notch with the recent confirmation of the pig-only disease just 750 miles from U.S. shores.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture in late July confirmed the first case of the highly contagious and highly transmissible disease – which is no threat to human health or food safety – in the Western Hemisphere in more than 40 years with its detection in the Dominican Republic.
The U.S. pork industry and several federal agencies have been preparing for ASF since 2018, when the disease hit China. With it now at our doorstep, we’re redoubling our efforts.
Among those efforts, the pork industry is working with USDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to help stop the spread of ASF from the Dominican Republic to neighboring islands, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Agriculture Department is providing ASF testing support to the Dominican Republic, setting up laboratory equipment, training laboratory personnel, providing personal protective equipment and offering aid on response and mitigation measures. It is also giving surveillance and testing assistance to Haiti, which borders the Dominican Republic.
To contain the outbreak to the Dominican Republic, USDA last month asked the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to recognize Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone,” a classification that allows the United States to maintain its current animal health status should a case of ASF be detected on either U.S. territory. Such an OIE designation is critical because it would let the United States, as an ASF-free country, continue exporting pork.
Additionally, USDA and the CBP have taken steps to check the spread of ASF to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, including increasing efforts to intercept illegal boat traffic from the Dominican Republic and Haiti to the islands and conducting thorough inspections of legal boat and air traffic.
Among some of its other actions, the U.S. pork industry urged CBP to make inspections at U.S. borders and ports more robust and asked Congress to appropriate $635 million for 720 new CBP agricultural inspectors. It also urged lawmakers to spend $30 million on the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which provides disease surveillance and diagnostic support in cases of large-scale animal disease outbreaks.
Most recently, it asked Congress for funding in the infrastructure bill now making its way through the legislative process to add more washout facilities for trucks that transport livestock. The pork industry noted that ensuring adequate transportation biosecurity is a critical part of containing harmful pathogens that can cause diseases, including ASF.
Of course, the best defense in this country should ASF reach the mainland is individual pork producers. There are some fairly simple things producers can do to protect their animals and prevent the spread of the disease, including using caution when hosting on-farm visitors from ASF-positive regions of the world; reviewing biosecurity protocols to ensure consistent use of safeguards; enrolling in the Secure Pork Supply program, a collaboration among the pork industry, the federal and state governments and Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota; and discussing with suppliers the origin of feed ingredients.
For additional information on ASF biosecurity, please visit www.nppc.org/asf.
Sources: Roy Lee Lindsey, North Carolina Pork Council, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.