African swine fever

African swine fever is prohibited matter.

Under Queensland legislation, if you suspect the presence of African swine fever, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or contact the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Alert

African swine fever in China and Eastern Europe - update

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of pigs. Recent outbreaks in China and Eastern Europe are currently being managed by respective authorities. China produces approximately 500 million pigs per year, which represents about half of the world’s production. Widespread outbreaks could have significant implications for the international demand for pork meat.

In early July 2018, ASF was confirmed in Romania and on 28 August 2018, ASF was reported in the largest pig operation in Romania with 138,480 susceptible animals on three properties.

Australia is in the favoured position of being free from ASF with there being no recorded incidents.

ASF can affect domestic and feral pigs of all ages with clinical signs of fever, blotching of the skin, incoordination, diarrhoea and pneumonia. Mortality rates are often very high. There is no treatment or vaccine available. Pigs usually become infected through direct contact with infected pigs, fomites (e.g. contaminated equipment) or through ingestion of material containing infected pig meat or pig products. Biting flies and ticks can also spread the virus.

The Australian Government has undertaken an analysis of existing imports and pathways to identify whether there were any additional actions required to manage the risk. This analysis found the risk was being managed by existing biosecurity risk management measures. Import conditions for pig meat are in place to manage biosecurity risks.

It is important that people comply with Australia's strict quarantine laws. Unauthorised importation of meat or animal products is prohibited to protect against diseases such as ASF.

The international outbreaks reinforce the importance of farm biosecurity and in particular, never feeding swill to pigs. Swill is food (or food scraps) that contains animal matter (e.g. meat, eggs, meat products or illegally imported dairy products) or vegetable waste that has been contaminated by animal matter.

Call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888 (all hours) if you suspect ASF.

Cause

A virus of the Asfarviridae family.

Distribution in Queensland

There have been no occurrences in Australia.

Currently present in most of sub-Saharan Africa and in Sardinia. There have been recent incidents in Russia, eastern Europe and China.

Life cycle

The course of this disease is from 1-7 days. In less acute forms of the disease, symptoms can last up to 3-4 weeks.

Affected animals

Pigs

Hosts

Ticks

Symptoms

When severe, the animal:

  • becomes depressed
  • has a high temperature
  • loses appetite
  • shows incoordination
  • is reluctant to move and often lies down
  • often displays redness or blue blotching of the skin on ears, nose and limbs
  • produces nasal and eye discharges
  • sometimes aborts a pregnancy
  • may vomit
  • develops dysentery or diarrhoea.

Impacts

Forms of the disease range from severe to very mild. In its most severe form, up to 100% of pigs may be affected and die.

Export trade in pigs and pig products would almost certainly cease if ASF infected Australian pigs. Loss of export markets would result in domestic oversupply and resultant falls in pricing. Socio-economic impacts on pig producers would likely be significant.

How it is spread

The soft argasid tick maintains a source of ASF virus in African warthog populations. Similar ticks are found associated with kangaroos in Australia though their role under Australian conditions is not known.

The virus spreads by direct contact with infected pigs. It also spreads by contaminated material from the environment, and the feeding of contaminated feeds to pigs. Bloodsucking insects feeding on infected pigs can mechanically transmit the virus within herds.

International spread has been associated with the swill feeding of garbage from international airports or seaports. All Australian states and territories have laws against feeding swill to pigs.

Risk period

The virus is very stable in a wide range of acid and alkaline levels (pH 4-10) and temperatures, including temperatures below freezing. It can remain viable in contaminated pig pens for at least one month and can remain viable for many months in raw unprocessed frozen meat. Pigs can remain carriers of the virus for long periods, perhaps for life. Heating to above 60°C for 30 minutes inactivates the virus.

Prevention

All people who keep pigs should take care to protect against introduction of serious diseases.

Swill must never be fed to pigs. Swill is material that:

  • contains, or may contain, the carcass of a mammal or bird
  • contains, or may contain, material derived from a mammal or bird (including meat, eggs, blood, faeces)
  • has been in contact with either of these (including food or food scraps from a restaurant, hotel or home that may have been in contact with meat or meat products or other material derived from a mammal or bird).

It is also important to consider and manage the risk of ASF and other diseases being introduced by the entry of potentially contaminated items including people, equipment, feed, bedding and wild or feral animals.

Control

The response approach to an outbreak of ASF will be determined by how early the outbreak is detected, the extent of the outbreak, the location of affected premises, virus virulence factors and whether feral pigs are involved.

The default policy is to control and eradicate the disease in the shortest possible time using a combination of strategies. This will involve:

  • an epidemiological study to establish the potential role of vectors in the transmission of the disease in Australia
  • movement controls to prevent further spread of the virus by animals, people, products and equipment
  • tracing and surveillance to determine the source and extent of infection
  • destruction of all infected and exposed susceptible animals
  • sanitary disposal of destroyed animals and contaminated animal products to remove the source of infection
  • decontamination to eliminate the virus on infected premises and equipment
  • control of the tick vector
  • a public awareness campaign

Call 13 25 23 or the Emergency Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888.if you suspect ASF.

More information