ASF is an exotic, highly contagious viral disease affecting both domesticated and wild pigs. It spreads rapidly through contact with infected animals or contact with contaminated pens, trucks, clothing or feed. Pigs can also remain carriers for the disease for quite some time.
Australia is currently free of ASF. However, if ASF was to enter Australia, it could severely damage our pig meat and associated industries and have devastating consequences for our 2,700 pork producers and 34,000 people working in the industry.
If you see anything unusual in your pigs (no matter how insignificant it may seem) or if you have a number of sudden deaths in your herd, you should report it immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.
Know the signs of African Swine Fever (ASF) and what to look out for in your pigs, and who to contact if you spot anything unusual.
Signs of ASF in pigs include high fever, decreased appetite and weakness, red/blotchy skin lesions, diarrhea or vomiting, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
Resources for producers
Resources for veterinarians
What’s the current situation?
ASF has been present in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1990s, and increasingly found in eastern Europe since 2016.
Since 2018, ASF has moved into Western Europe (notably Belgium) for the first time, and into Asia. It continues to move quickly through South-East Asia over the past few months, with cases being confirmed in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, North Korea, South Korea, the Philipines, Timor Leste, Indonesia and most recently Papua New Guinea.
Australia is working closely with counterparts in Timor Leste, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to assess the situation and provide assistance.
In February 2021, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations issued an alert which outlined a heightened risk of ASF in the Asia and Pacific region. This risk stems from two key factors:
• Intensified travel around the Lunar New Year (12 February 2021).
• Possible circulation of new variants of the ASF virus.
Important points from the FAO alert include:
• Millions of people are expected to travel for the Lunar New Year (starting 12 February 2021).
• The vast majority of traffic will be to and from countries in Asia.
• Travel increases the risk of spreading ASF, since the virus can be transmitted via infected raw pork and pork products and contact with infected animals as well as contaminated clothing, vehicles and other equipment.
• Recent, credible media reports (1, 2, 3) indicate new forms of ASF may be circulating in Asia.
• The new variants reportedly cause limited clinical signs (e.g. chronic fatigue) and little-to-no mortality.
• “Hidden” infection with these new ASF variants dramatically increases the difficulty of detection of infected pigs.
The Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud distributed a media release on 10 February 2021, ‘African swine fever variant ‘perfect storm’ of risk’ urging heightened biosecurity vigilance following reports of new variants of ASF emerging in our region. Key points from this media release include:
• Variants are showing less obvious signs of the disease which increases the likelihood of it going undetected and uncontrolled.
• With Lunar Chinese New Year celebrations approaching, more gift items arriving and increased travel in the region, this is the perfect storm of risk.
• People who are unsure about the biosecurity status of goods that they have brought into Australia or received in the mail should report a biosecurity concern by calling the See. Secure. Report. hotline on 1800 798 636 or completing an online reporting form.
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.
- South Australia
- Northern Territory
- Western Australia
With African swine fever (ASF) on our borders its vital that you and your farm are prepared.
· Ensure your farm biosecurity plan is up-to date and equipped for an outbreak.
· Have a biosecurity plan ready
How can you reduce the risk?
One of the easiest ways you can protect Australia’s pork industry from ASF and other disease threats is to feed your pigs the right feed. Food waste that has come into contact with meat or contains meat must not be fed to pigs. This type of food waste, known as swill, could contain viruses such as ASF virus, which can be passed onto your pigs if they consume the infected food waste. Feeding swill to pigs is illegal in Australia.
Sound on-farm biosecurity practices are essential for anyone who has pigs, from commercial pig farmers to backyard pig owners. Ensure you keep good animal health and visitor records, limit movement (e.g. people, pigs, vehicles, equipment, waste etc.) on and off farm property, implement insect, rodent and feral pig controls to get started.
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.
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.
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.
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 Hotline on 1800 675 888, your veterinarian, or your state/territory department of primary industries (or equivalent).
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.