African swine fever (ASF) “has been endemic in Africa and has spread to eastern Europe over the past decade. However, in August, it was also diagnosed in more than 20 locations in China, home to half the world’s pigs and an active trade partner of the U.S.,” said Dr. John Deen, a professor in the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. “If ASF migrates to the U.S., it would impede exports of American pork, where other countries now purchase approximately 25% of the pork produced. Estimates of the cost of the disease are up to $13.5 billion in the first year alone.”
Furthermore, Pedro E. Urriola, University of Minnesota research assistant professor in the department of animal science, added that “ASF and other viruses may be transmitted via feed and feed ingredients intended for use in pig diets. The U.S. imports a fair amount of feed ingredients from various regions of the world, and subsequently, there is a risk of bringing the virus in imported feed ingredients.
“At the University of Minnesota, we’re developing a hazard analysis and risk preventive controls as a mechanism which pork producers and the feed industry can use to mitigate the risk of disease transmission,” Urriola said.
Separately, in an Oct. 9 announcement, the National Pork Board (NPB) said the ongoing ASF outbreaks in China, Belgium and elsewhere have crystallized the U.S. pork industry’s focus and collaboration on finding new ways to help protect the domestic herd from costly foreign animal diseases.
According to NPB, one new practice designed to reduce disease transmission risk involves knowing exactly how long certain feed ingredients have been securely stored before allowing their use on pig farms.
As modeling in peer-reviewed research has made clear, NPB said, it’s possible for swine disease viruses to survive in shipments of certain feed ingredients during transoceanic shipping to U.S. ports and even to inland points of feed manufacturing. Based on this current research, a holding time of 78 days after the date of manufacturing and bagging or sealing to prevent additional contamination (“born on date”) for amino acids, minerals or vitamins will degrade 99.99% of viral contamination, NPB said. The holding time extends to 286 days for soybean meal to allow for similar viral degradation, once shipped, to prevent additional contamination.
“Working with your feed supplier to get this type of information is yet another way to help protect your pigs from potential infection from a foreign animal disease,” said Dr. Dave Pyburn, NPB senior vice president of science and technology. “It’s just one more tool in our arsenal against African swine fever and other diseases that we hope will offer U.S. producers more protection against this growing global threat.”
“It’s clear from the research that certain feed ingredients can support viral survival during conditions modeled after either transatlantic or transpacific shipping to U.S. ports,” said Dr. Paul Sundberg, director of the Swine Health Information Center. “Based on these findings, we think it’s prudent that the entire U.S. pork industry look at this research and consider taking action to help us prevent a FAD from entering this country through this route.”
In a related area of disease prevention, NPB, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) and Swine Health Information Center recommend that producers talk to their feed suppliers to get information about seven key areas:
1. Describe the facility’s biosecurity program to minimize the spread of pathogens from people, vehicles and ingredients.
2. Describe the facility’s employee training on feed safety.
3. Describe the facility’s pest control program.
4. Describe the facility’s traceability program.
5. Describe the facility’s supplier approval program.
6. Ask if the facility is certified by a third-party certification body for food safety. Third-party certification programs may include the Feed Additives Manufacturers (FAMI-QS), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the Safe Quality Food, Safe Feed/Safe Food, etc.
7. Ask whether the facility utilizes ingredients that were manufactured or packaged outside of the U.S.?
To get a better handle on your particular farm’s risk of foreign animal disease transport via a feed ingredient, Sundberg suggested that producers use the newly developed virus transport in feed ingredients decision tree matrix. “It was developed to help producers work with their feed suppliers to minimize risk from feed ingredients,” he said.
Aside from the specific feed-related ways reduce disease risk, AASV executive director Dr. Tom Burkgren said producers should review their current on-farm biosecurity plan with their veterinarian. “While this is always a good thing to do periodically, it’s critically important now to find any potential weaknesses in your production practices so that you can take immediate steps to fix them to help protect your animals.”
The four swine groups continue to collectively reach out to officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including chief veterinary officer Jack Shere, to see what can be done to enhance the protection of the domestic swine herd from ASF and all foreign animal diseases.
“U.S. agriculture must bolster its defenses against the spread of animal disease as we face heightened risk,” NPPC chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom said. “These measures should include private-sector efforts like those that have informed this feed directive as well as publicly funded programs to guard against disease outbreaks that would immediately close export markets and threaten prosperity in rural America.”
Meanwhile, Kansas State University researchers and the Biosecurity Research Institute have several projects focused on ASF. Their research topics vary, but they share the same goal of stopping the spread of the virus and preventing it from reaching the U.S., Kansas State said in an announcement.
There is no vaccine or cure for the disease, which causes hemorrhagic fever and high mortality in pigs. It does not infect humans.
“African swine fever’s introduction into China poses an increased threat to the U.S.,” said Stephen Higgs, director of the Biosecurity Research Institute. “Introduction of African swine fever virus into the U.S. would have an enormous impact on our agricultural industry. Research, education and training at the Biosecurity Research Institute help to improve our understanding and preparedness for this threat.”
In 2013, the Biosecurity Research Institute became the first non-federal facility to be approved for work with the ASF virus, Higgs said. The university projects at the Biosecurity Research Institute are part of research that can transition to the National Bio & Agro-defense Facility once it is fully functional. ASF is one of the diseases slated to be researched at the facility, which is under construction adjacent to Kansas State University’s campus in Manhattan, Kan.