As African Swine Fever continues to circulate, many plans are being made to prevent the disease from crossing U.S. borders. The U.S. is making plans to up the ante on biosecurity measures. They are also working to initiate action plans should ASF make it across the borders.
Double Down, Ante Up
Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, has told USDA agencies to, “Double down the guard to keep African Swine Fever out of the United States.” The USDA has put restrictions on hog and pork imports from China. Additionally, they are working closely with the U.S. pork industry to heighten biosecurity.
Currently, Perdue is making plans to prepare for the potential outbreak of ASF.
“We’re working now to make sure that we’ve got adequate federal and state laboratory capacity to handle any of the testing needs that may occur.” Perdue says
Perdue said early detection and rapid testing are key in the event of an outbreak. In terms of ASF, he said the USDA is preparing for the worst and praying for the best.
The USDA isn’t the only group preparing for ASF. Researchers at Kansas State University and the Biosecurity Research Institute have several projects focused on this disease. Though the topics vary, the goals remain the same – stop the spread of ASF and prevent it from entering the U.S.
“African swine fever’s introduction into China poses an increased threat to the U.S.,” said Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute. “Introduction of African swine fever virus into the U.S. would have an enormous impact on our agricultural industry. Research, education and training at the Biosecurity Research Institute help to improve our understanding and preparedness for this threat.”
If ASF enters the U.S. it could cause billions in economic losses to swine and other industries and devastate trade and international markets.
In 2013, the Biosecurity Research Institute became the first non-federal facility to be approved to work with ASF. Currently, projects surrounding the virus are part of research which can transition to the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility once fully functional.
Last month, USDA and FDA officials met with U.S. pork sector groups, including the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the National Pork Board, the National Pork Producers Council and the Swine Health Information Center. They evaluated additional measures to prevent the spread of ASF and answered questions regarding diagnostic preparedness, surveillance and response to the infection.
USDA Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service has posted a disease response strategy for ASF on its FAD PReP website. This aids the pork industry in state specific planning. Additionally, USDA has committed to work with the industry to develop and host an ASF-specific exercise in 2019.
This program would test key response functions necessary for successful ASF management and containment. Participants would include pork producers, swine veterinarians, packer and processors and allied industry. In addition, invitations to participate will be sent to both Canada and Mexico.
Currently, APHIS has approved 11 National Animal Health Laboratory Network laboratories to test for ASF.
At the current capacity, 6,500 PCR samples could be run per day. Capacity could be increased to 8000 samples per day with additional proficiency tested staffing. USDA’s Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health is determining the sample size needed for testing if the U.S. experiences an outbreak.
Furthermore, USDA has identified 22 laboratories wanting to add ASF to their approved tests and competencies. The laboratories could account for an additional 9,000 tests per day.
Originally, whole blood was the only approved sample type for ASF tests in NAHLN. However, tonsil is a validated sample at USDA’s Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. As of Oct. 1, it was also approved for use in NAHLN labs for foreign animal disease investigations. Additionally, USDA is in the process of validating oral fluids for ASF testing.
At industry’s request, USDA is evaluating costs and utility of adding spleen as an approved sample for ASF testing in NAHLN laboratories.
As of now, there is only a passive surveillance system for ASF early detection. The system relies on producers or veterinarians reporting suspected cases to state or federal animal health officials. However, USDA piloted an active ASF program using whole blood. This was similar to the classical swine fever program.
USDA is modeling surveillance needs, including development of a revised case definition for sick pigs and identification of the best surveillance streams for early disease detection.
Additionally, USDA and Canada have signed an agreement to recognize their respective regionalization plans in the case of a foreign animal disease outbreak. The USDA will consider doing such with other countries. However, the process is resource intensive and will take a substantial amount of time.
Furthermore, each state will need to develop their own disposal plan. Along with that, producers should work with their state to develop site specific plans.
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Scares of ASF continue to circulate around the pork industry. The USDA is working rigorously to increase biosecurity to keep the disease out. Additionally, they are working to develop strategic plans in the event of an outbreak. The need for continued biosecurity practices remains prevalent. It is important producers stay up to date on all news, practices and procedures surrounding this disease.