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What is African Swine Fever?
By: Grant N. Price and Andrew S. Bowman, MS, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, Ohio State University - 09/10/2018

African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious, viral disease of pigs, but the virus is not transmissible to humans. The ASF virus was originally detected in pigs in sub-Saharan Africa, but more recently, it has been spreading across Europe and Asia. While some species of ticks are capable of transmitting the virus between pigs, ASF also spreads directly pig-to-pig. Infected domestic swine shed ASF virus in all body excretions and secretions and the virus is able to gain entry to susceptible pigs through the upper respiratory tract. Pigs continue to shed ASF virus for at least 70 days post infection and the virus is has been found in the tissues of domesticated pigs for up to 6 months after they became ill. Controlling spread of the virus is difficult because the ASF virus is very hardy and can spread easily on vehicles, clothing, feed, and equipment. ASF virus can survive for two weeks in urine and feces, 140 days in salted dried hams, and for years in frozen meat. Additionally, any common disinfectants are not effective against ASF virus.

The appearance of ASF in pigs can be highly variable depending upon the virus strain. Clinical signs usually appear 3-5 days after exposure, but this has been as long as 21 days in some cases. While some strains of ASF virus only cause mild disease, the first signs of ASF is usually a jump in sudden deaths, with skin blotching observed on the ears, tails, and legs. High fevers, nasal discharge, diarrhea, bloody noses, generalized weakness, failure to stand, and abortions have all been associated with ASF, but these clinical signs also occur with many other viral diseases. Producers must realize that ASF often resembles other more common diseases, and therefore can easily go overlooked for a prolonged period. Nearly 100% of the pigs in a nave herd will become ill within a few weeks, and mortality can range from 5%-100% depending on the virus strain. PCR testing of oral fluids, fresh tissues, and blood samples is the fastest way to detect the virus. Currently, there is no treatment nor vaccine for this disease.

With the recent reports of ASF spreading through China and other regions of the world, Ohio producers must be vigilant about protecting the health of their pigs and they are encouraged to contact their herd veterinarian if there is any question about the health of their pigs. While amplified port inspections of products from China and other regions of the world with ASF virus infected swine is occurring, producers and feed manufacturers alike need to be cautious when using imported products.

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