USDA expands ASF awareness tools to keep the virus out of the US
USDA has committed new resources to raising the awareness of African swine fever (ASF) and the importance of keeping the virus from entering the US.
This action comes on the heels of the seizure of roughly 1 million pounds of pork smuggled from China, which is dealing with the ongoing spread of ASF.
Trained detector dogs working as part of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) discovered the products at a New Jersey port of entry. It is the largest seizure of agricultural goods on record. Notably, USDA does not allow importation of swine or fresh pork products into the US from countries or regions that are reported positive for the ASF virus, as both are possible entry vehicles for the virus.
To help people learn more about this disease, as well as the steps to help protect US pigs, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has updated its web content with additional information and links to partners’ resources.
USDA also released four infographics on the following topics, which would be good additions to farm offices and pig-production sites:
- African swine fever risk pathways
- Signs and symptoms of African swine fever
- Traveler tips
US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue shared information in a video about the importance of keeping ASF out of the US.
“It is vital for everyone to know about ASF and how to prevent it, while keeping the US pig population healthy,” said USDA officials. “Prevention is our best protection against the disease.”
Should ASF enter the US, it would not only threaten animal health, it would immediately close export markets to US pork.
“Illegal import/export activities can’t stand and must be met with swift and severe penalties to discourage others from attempting to transport contraband products across our borders,” according to a National Pork Producers Council statement. “We must remain on high alert at our airports and sea ports to prevent the illegal entry of meat products and be diligent in our farm biosecurity protocols.”
Efforts to safeguard the national swine herd requires the cooperation of pork producers and veterinarians, the industry and federal and state government agencies. USDA is continuously monitoring the ASF outbreaks in Asia and Europe, and recently put these additional steps in place:
- Working with CBP at ports of entry and paying particular attention to cargo, passengers and products arriving from China and other ASF-affected countries;
- Increasing detector dog teams with CBP to sniff out illegal products at key US commercial sea and air ports. Last week four new beagles completed training and were placed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago’s O’Hare airports;
- Collaborating with states, industry and producers to ensure everyone follows strict on-farm biosecurity protocols and best practices (including for garbage feeding in states that allow the practice);
- Restricting imports of pork and pork products from affected countries;
- Closely coordinating response plans with the US pork industry, producers and states to be ready should ASF detection ever occur in the United States; and
- Expanding the testing capabilities and capacity of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
“USDA is committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies and neighboring countries to prevent the spread of ASF,” agency officials noted in a press release. “USDA tracks animal disease outbreaks around the world and remains on high alert to protect our farmers, our consumers and our natural resources from ASF or any foreign animal disease.”
The National Pork Board offered these important reminders about ASF:
- It is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people. So, it is not a public health threat nor a food-safety concern.
- ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through contact with pigs or pork.
- Members of the pig family, including domestic and wild pigs, are the only animals susceptible to the ASF virus.
- There is no treatment or vaccine available for the disease.
- Pork products from animals with ASF are safe to consume.
- As usual, the USDA has measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food supply, including if ASF is detected in the US.
Posted on March 22, 2019