African swine fever FAQ

Please find below some commonly asked questions in relation to African swine fever.

What is African swine fever?

African swine fever (ASF) is a contagious viral disease that affects both domesticated and wild pigs but is currently not present in Australia.

How can ASF be spread?

ASF virus can be spread from live or dead pigs, domestic or wild pigs, and through pork products. Transmission can also occur via contaminated feed and fomites (non-living objects) such as clothes, shoes, vehicles, knives, equipment etc., due to the high environmental resistance of ASF virus.

Where have ASF outbreaks been seen before?

Historically, outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. Since 2007 the disease has been reported across multiple regions including Africa, Asia and Europe. In 2018, ASF moved into western Europe (notably Belgium) for the first time, and more recently into Asia. ASF has continued to spread through South-East Asia over the past few months, with cases confirmed in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines, Timor Leste, and, most recently, Indonesia.

Is ASF in Australia?

No, Australia is currently free of ASF. If ASF was to enter Australia, it could have devastating consequences for our pig meat and associated industries. Although ASF has never occurred in Australia, its changing world distribution means it is a significant biosecurity threat to our country.

What would an outbreak look like?

It’s difficult to predict how an outbreak of ASF would play out, given there are a number of ways it may start (e.g. in feral pigs, in a suburban backyard, in a commercial piggery) and spread.

The most important thing to do if an ASF outbreak occurs is to comply with the instructions of your state government biosecurity personnel, who will be working hard to contain and eradicate the disease.

For more information, Animal Health Australia have a range of fact sheets on response activities and control measures.

What arrangements are in place to deal with an outbreak?

Australia has arrangements in place to manage animal disease outbreaks. The AUSVETPLAN ASF response strategy describes the nationally agreed approach to control and eradicate ASF if it occurs in Australia. The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (or EADRA) is an agreement between all state and territory governments, the Australian government and livestock industry bodies which enables a quick and effective response to an EAD incident, while minimising uncertainty over management and funding arrangements.

Who pays the cost of the disease response?

The response to a disease outbreak conducted under the EADRA is cost-shared, meaning governments and industries split the costs of the response based on a pre-agreed formula

What happens if I lose my pigs to an outbreak?

If your pigs die of ASF or are culled to control its spread, you may be eligible for compensation. Each jurisdiction has different legislation for determining eligibility for compensation.

For more specific information, you’ll need to contact your state government department of primary industries or equivalent. During an outbreak, information on compensation claims will be made available by the state/territory government department of primary industries.

What impact will an ASF outbreak have on other livestock industries?

As ASF only affects pigs, no other livestock species are at risk of contracting the disease. However, control measures may have an impact on your ability to buy, sell or transport your livestock, as transporters, saleyards and abattoirs may not be operating as they normally would. This depends on the scale of the outbreak and the control measures in place.

Additionally, if ASF is found in the feral pig population, landowners may be asked to comply with control measures, regardless of whether they have domesticated pigs on the property.

How can you reduce the risk of ASF occurring in Australian pigs?

An important way to reduce the chance of an ASF outbreak occurring in Australia is to feed your pigs the right feed. Food waste that contains meat or has come into contact with meat (also sometimes called ‘swill’) MUST NOT be fed to pigs. If swill contained imported product with viruses such as ASF, pigs could become infected if they consume it. Feeding swill to pigs is illegal in Australia.  

What precautions need to be taken regarding ASF when travelling to Australia?

It is important to declare on your Incoming Passenger Card any food and animal products, and other risk items. This can include footwear, equipment, or clothes that may have been in contact with animals or worn in a rural area. Make sure your clothing and footwear are clean before you pack your bags.

What are the signs of ASF in pigs?

Signs of ASF in pigs include high fever, decreased appetite and weakness, red/blotchy skin lesions, diarrhea or vomiting, coughing, and difficulty breathing. If you notice these signs in your pigs, you should report them immediately.

Who should you call if you notice anything unusual?

You should immediately report any unusual signs of illness in animals  to the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, your veterinarian, or your state/territory department of primary industries (or equivalent).

Why is on-farm biosecurity so important if you keep pigs?

Farm biosecurity is essential for anyone who owns pigs, from commercial pig farmers to backyard pig owners, in order to keep out harmful disease organisms. It is important to ensure you keep good animal health and visitor records, limit movements of people and vehicles onto the farm (especially around the animal production areas) and control insects, rodents and feral pigs. It is also important to limit contact between domestic pigs and feral pigs, and do not allow someone to come into contact with your pigs if they have recently returned from overseas.