Missouri Farmers Seek to Prevent African Swine Fever from Reaching North America | KBIA

Missouri Farmers Seek to Prevent African Swine Fever from Reaching North America

May 31, 2019

African Swine Fever is a disease that over the last eight months has rapidly moved through China and surrounding countries, killing thousands of pigs. Farmers in the United States, including Missouri, are taking measures to prevent the disease - which only affects pigs - from reaching U.S. farms.

Large pig farms in the United States such as Smithfield, in Smithfield, Virginia, have increased bio-security measures. In addition to creating a wash-in, wash-out facility, Smithfield is now placing tighter restrictions on farm visits and quarantining anyone who has recently been abroad.  The National Pork Producers Council has cancelled the conference portion of the World Pork Expo, held in Des Moines, Iowa during the first week of June.

Bill Kessler, a farmer outside of Mexico, Missouri, is taking measures to prevent African Swine Fever from reaching his pigs.
Credit Will Robinson / KBIA

Bill Kessler is a pig farmer outside of Mexico, Missouri. He said it would be difficult to eradicate ASF if it made its way to the United States.

“I’m not sure we could stop it here in the United States, we could try," Kessler said. "It just spreads so quick and easily from herd to herd because we’re naïve to African Swine Fever." 

Chinese pork imports are currently being halted because the virus can survive up to 1000 days in the carcass of a pig, according to Dr. Corrine Bromfield, University of Missouri swine extension veterinarian. She said the most likely way for ASF to come to North America would be through pig feed or a meat product with contaminated products in it.

“The virus its self, it’s not going to ride over on the currents, it’s not going to ride over in the air, it’s going to come over here, if it comes over here, in something,” Bromfield said. “And so, it could come over in contaminated meat, it could come over in contaminated feed, it could come over in some contaminated products.” Bromfield reiterated that the disease presents no threat to humans or the human food supply. 

The current recommended action, if a site or farm has the disease, is euthanization. While there currently is a vaccine that may treat ASF the combined incubation time of the disease and shipping time for the vaccine would be anywhere between two weeks to a month. According to Kessler that is too long to prevent it from spreading. 

Piglets on Bill Kessler's farm near Mexico, Missouri, May 5, 2019.

Bromfield said even when farmers can notice symptoms of ASF it can often be mistaken for other viruses and diseases such as Porcine Reproductive Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) or salmonella, making it difficult to properly treat. 

Meanwhile, Kessler said because his farm isn't bio-secure he's avoiding contact with neighbors and other farmers, in the hopes of avoiding any possible contamination of the disease in his herd of 350 sows.