African Swine Fever is a very important viral disease affecting all ages of domestic and wild pigs and is currently the greatest threat to the global pig sector.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is present in Africa, Europe and Asia, which house 70% of the global pig population. Find out where the latest reported outbreaks are with this map.
This disease is caused by a complex and large DNA virus in the Asfarviridae Family. It was first classified in Africa in 1921 and has been spreading within Europe and Asia recently. ASF is not a zoonosis (cannot spread from animals to people).
There are various cycles of infection in different regions of the world. The general routes of entry onto a farm for the virus are: 1. Direct – contact of healthy animals with infected wild boar or domestic pigs 2. Indirect – contact of healthy animals with infected blood, meat and food products. Vectors such as soft ticks play a role in some transmission cycles. Fomites such as vehicles and clothing can also be a means of transmitting the virus.
There is currently no effective vaccine for ASF, although various inactivated, live and subunit vaccine approaches have been investigated. Research is ongoing around the world to find a safe and efficacious vaccine.
The disease may present in different ways. In a naïve situation, only a small amount of virus may enter a farm, which means that initially only a few animals might be affected (e.g. 5-10). This is then followed by much higher numbers of affected animals as the virus spreads throughout the farm. In this situation the acute/peracute form is most commonly seen with animals showing high fever, lethargy, and haemorrhagic skin lesions (i.e. ears, feet, lower belly). Other forms of the disease include subacute and asymptomatic.
There is no specific treatment to cure animals with ASF.
The virus is very resistant in the environment and without an effective vaccine the management of the disease currently focusses on preventing outbreaks through good biosecurity. Double fencing and quarantine help prevent direct spread, whilst cleaning and disinfection of vehicles plus changing clothing for farm visitors help prevent indirect spread. It is essential to stop naïve animals contacting any kind of food that may contain pork products, so all human food must be disposed of appropriately. Kitchen scraps must not be fed to pigs and all tourists/travellers must adhere to advice regarding carrying certain foods whilst travelling. Raising awareness of the disease at all levels is important.