African Swine Fever (ASF) is a severe viral disease that spreads through direct and indirect contact and can cause high rates of death in pigs. Domestic pigs, feral pigs and European wild boar can all become infected. The virus does not affect humans.
ASF virus is currently spreading among domestic pigs and wild boar in Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. China reported its first case of ASF in August 2018, with subsequent rapid spread throughout the country. The disease was also detected for the first time in Belgium in early September. To date, there have been no cases in Canada, the United States or Mexico.
After exposure to the virus, it takes three to 15 days for symptoms to appear. There are both acute and chronic forms of ASF; the acute form can cause high rates of death in swine farms. If a pig survives the infection, they can shed the virus for up to six months.
The symptoms of ASF virus infection in nursery, grower and finisher/market pigs are:
- High fever;
- Weakness and difficulty standing;
- Red or blue blotches on the skin (particularly around ears and snout); and
- Coughing or laboured breathing.
In sow barns, symptoms include:
- Stillbirths; and
- Weak litters.
The ASF virus can be transmitted to pigs via contaminated food and items such as clothing and footwear. This virus is extremely hardy and can survive in the environment, carcasses and swine products for a long period of time.
Preventing the spread of ASF
There is no vaccine or cure for ASF. The major risk factors to Canada are the importation of feed from China, travellers coming into contact with the virus and bringing it back to Canada on their clothes and footwear, and people smuggling in infected pork and pork products. The virus survives up to 300 days in fresh meat and processed pork products including cured, air dried, salted or smoked products, and up to 1,000 days in frozen pork.
Travelers should never bring back meat or pork products into Canada. ASF-contaminated pork products can kill pigs and spread the disease. Any clothing and footwear worn in another country should not be worn on a farm/abattoir in Canada; if this isn’t possible, all clothing and footwear should be washed prior to entering a farm/abattoir in Canada.
The best strategy against ASF is preventing the entry of the virus into Canada. Producers/abattoir staff should routinely evaluate biosecurity protocols with staff and visitors.
- Ensure that temporary foreign workers, staff and visitors have not had contact with swine in countries where ASF has been detected.
- Be wary of where you dispose of your food waste so other animals, including wild boars, do not have access to it.
If ASF is suspected on a farm or abattoir:
- Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see any clinical signs in pigs that could be associated with ASF infection.
- Stop all pig movements and implement a self-quarantine to prevent further spread of infection.
Feeding human food waste and meat to pigs
Do not feed human food waste or meat to pigs. Not only is this necessary to prevent the introduction of ASF and other diseases, it is illegal to do so in Canada under the federal Health of Animals Regulations: Section 112:
“No person shall feed meat, meat by-products or food that is suspected to contain meat or meat by-products to swine or poultry, or permit swine or poultry to have access to the meat or by-products.”
Feeding ASF-contaminated pork products to pigs will introduce the disease, resulting in the death of countless animals and severely damaging the Canadian swine industry.
Potential outbreak of ASF in Canada
In the event of an ASF outbreak, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA’s) strategy would be to eradicate the disease and re-establish Canada’s disease-free status as quickly as possible. In an effort to eradicate ASF, the CFIA would use its "stamping out" policy, which includes:
- Humane destruction of all infected and exposed swine;
- Tracing to identify locations of potentially infected or exposed swine;
- Surveillance to detect newly infected swine;
- Quarantine and animal movement controls to prevent spread;
- Decontamination of infected premises; and
- Zoning to define infected and disease-free areas.
If you suspect ASF, contact your veterinarian or CFIA district veterinarian.
For more information:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency - African Swine Fever : ASF is a reportable disease under the federal Health of Animals Act, and all cases must be reported to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Canadian Pork Council’s African Swine Fever page: Information and resources on how to prevent African Swine Fever and its potential impact.