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USDA steps up measures to prevent ASF spread to the US

Six new measures introduced with prevention being the key aim

by 5m Editor
8 March 2019, at 9:39am

As the spread of African swine fever (ASF) across Asia shows no signs of slowing, US pork producers have watched with a nervous eye toward international commerce and travel.

Due to a range of possible vectors, the threat of ASF entering the US continues, but the US pork industry has received some good news: USDA officials announced a strategy to increase protection measures targeting ASF.

“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” said Undersecretary Greg Ibach and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies, and neighbouring countries to take these additional steps.”

Ibach announced the following measures:

  • Coordinate with Customs and Border Patrol to expand:
    • The “Beagle Brigade” by 60 new teams for a total of 179 beagle teams at key US airports and sea ports.
    • Arrival screenings at key US airports and sea ports, including checking cargo for illegal pork/pork products and ensuring travellers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection.
  • Ramp up inspections and enforcement of garbage-feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread.
  • Increase producer awareness, including importance of self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures.
  • Research accurate and reliable testing procedures to screen for the ASF virus in grains, feeds, feed additives and swine oral-fluid samples.
  • Collaborate with officials in Canada and Mexico on a North American-coordinated approach to ASF defence, response and trade maintenance.
  • Coordinate with the US pork industry leadership to ensure unified efforts to combat ASF.

“With no available vaccine, prevention is our only defence; these are good next steps,” he added. “We look forward to continued dialogue with USDA to do all that we can to keep ASF and other animal diseases out of the US.”

USDA also will continue to enhance its planning to be prepared in case the United States ever had to combat ASF.

“Along with our wide range of partner groups, we are working through several different ASF-planning and response exercises,” Ibach said. “These cover different aspects – from trade implications to policy discussions to the boots-on-the-ground realities of a response. These will help everyone involved ensure their response plans are ready and identify any preparedness gaps that must be addressed.”

ASF is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and feral (wild) pigs in all age groups. It is spread by contact with the body fluids of infected animals. It can also be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals. ASF does not affect people, nor is it a food safety issue.

More information is available on the APHIS ASF webpage.