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USDA steps up efforts to combat African swine fever

NPB biosecurity pig hog farmers
Agency has several initiatives in multiple regions to help combat spread of disease.

Following the discovery of African swine fever (ASF) in the Dominican Republic (DR), Dr. Rosemary Sifford from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) told viewers on a National Pork Board webinar that the U.S. is trying to determine how it can help the country as it once again tries to eradicate the disease. USDA had already been working with the DR on disease surveillance since 2019.

“They are an independent country, and so they are certainly leading their response. We will continue to offer our support,” she said.

So far, USDA is providing testing support as well as helping them bolster their in-country testing.

Sifford said USDA had previously shipped some laboratory equipment in hopes of setting up a lab, and that process has now been accelerated due to the discovery. “We expect to have staff there from USDA labs to train local laboratory technicians within the next couple weeks.”

The country has also requested additional Personal Protective Equipment for their responders, which Sifford said should be provided soon.

USDA continues to consult with the DR government as well as coordinate and collaborate with a variety other organizations working on the situation.

Similar offers have been made to the government of Haiti, and while there have been no reports of cases in the country, Sifford said USDA does expect to have some assistance requests from the country for testing and laboratory support.

Efforts in Puerto Rico are underway to enhance mitigations because it is a U.S. territory and close to the DR. The current focus is on boat traffic and garbage disposal. However, USDA has also been working with the Wildlife Services team for quite a while to conduct some feral swine control in Puerto Rico.

“We had a plan that was laid out to eradicate feral swine over a six-year period,” Sifford relayed. “We’re working at this time to try to put more resources into that plan and speed that up, with the hope that we could have a significant impact on the population of feral swine over the next 15-18 months and then hopefully cut that eradication period in at least half.”

Sifford said the process has already been started to add staff and resources in Puerto Rico to implement the accelerated strategy.

What’s most important is to quickly contain and control the outbreak in the DR to protect other regions in the Western Hemisphere from the disease.

According to Sifford, there are several preventative measures across federal and state agencies that have been in place for a long time, all of which have been ramped up given the new situation. Recent new initiatives include proper garbage disposal as well as strengthening dog importation requirements from ASF-affected countries.  

If ASF is ever discovered on the U.S. mainland, Sifford said USDA would strongly consider implementing a 72-hour movement standstill on live swine and semen to be able to better assess the outbreak and implement control and eradication measures.

To view Dr. Sifford’s full webinar presentation, click here.

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