Pig farming

African Swine Fever

African Swine Fever (ASF) is probably the notifiable disease which is causing the most sleepless nights across the pig industry at the moment; the main reason being that the virus has been moving from east to west across Europe.

Steady progression of the disease is due to the movement and spread between wild boar and local pigs, but more worrying are the larger geographical ‘jumps’, such as the one which led to the first outbreak in the Czech Republic. These ‘jumps’ have been traced to truck service-stations, the theory being that Mr Lorry Driver chucks the crusts of his cured-meat (from their own backyard pig) sandwiches out the window. ASF is a remarkably hardy virus – it’s resistant to temperature variations, changes in pH, sunlight and drying, meaning despite some processing, it can remain infective in meat products. The sandwich is eaten by local wild boar and a new ASF outbreak occurs. Now we don’t have many wild boar (although there are 1,500 in the Forest of Dean!), but imagine the cured-meat sandwich again, but now in the hand of a worker on a UK pig farm. Plus you can never underestimate the danger posed by backyard keepers of pigs feeding kitchen scraps to their animals.

What does African Swine Fever look like?

  • Sudden deaths
  • Fever and depression
  • Red/purple blotches on skin
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding from the nose and the bottom
  • Abortions

What can we do to prevent African Swine Fever infecting our farms?

The highest risk route for ASF is infected pig meat products, although it could also enter on equipment or materials that had been near infected pigs. Here are some basic steps to stop the virus from getting onto your farm:

  • Do not allow pig meat products to enter the site.
  • Ensure no kitchen scraps or human food is fed to pigs.
  • Ensure all visitors have been distant from other pigs for 48 hours, and have showered and changed clothing and footwear.
  • Provide all visitors with cleaned and disinfected clothing and footwear.
  • Ensure all vehicles and equipment are cleaned and disinfected before entering the farm.

One of the issues with ASF is that several other diseases can present in a similar way e.g. cause pigs to become sick, with red blotches on skin and related mortality; these diseases include Classical Swine Fever (another notifiable disease) but also more common infections like Erysipelas and Porcine Dermatitis Nephropathy Syndrome (PDNS, caused by circovirus).

So if you see some of these signs on farm don’t panic, it’s probably just a common infection, but you should always contact your veterinarian for advice just in case.

For further information please contact Zoetis UK Limited, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7NS. www.zoetis.co.uk Customer Support: 0845 300 8034. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation: August 2018. MM-03787