The African Swine Fever (ASF) is a virus, often fatal, which affects both domestic and wild pigs. The disease, though harmless to humans, is highly transmissible between infected pigs and food made from infected pigs and can survive months in the environment.
ASF is an extremely contagious viral disease with high mortality rates in domestic and wild pigs. There has been a recent emergence of ASF in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. In the last year, Dominica shipped over 2,600t of pig meat to Caribbean nations, a vast 60% increase from the previous year. With the presence of the disease in the country, 60 000 pigs were slaughtered.
The disease, if not combated, will have a horrendous impact on the pig industry and the livelihood of those involved in its production. As pork meat is one of the primary sources of animal proteins, the disease poses a threat to the sustainability of the global food supply chain and is a serious problem to food security in the region. This disruption may also lead to dietary changes in the population which can also increase food import bills.
Symptoms of ASF vary from acute to chronic depending upon the virus strain and immune status of infected pigs.
In chronic cases, mortality rates range from 95-100% in 4 to 20 days prior to infection. In less virulent strains, 30- 70% chances of mortality. Signs of infection vary from fever, loss of appetite, depression, haemorrhage, reduced growth, skin lesions and swelling.
With no vaccine or treatment available to fight the disease, prevention relies heavily on biosecurity measures and the collaboration of all stakeholders involved in the industry. Biosecurity is crucial to both commercial and small scale pig production for preventing the introduction and effectively controlling the spread of ASF. Basic biosecurity at the farm level includes segregation, disinfection and cleaning.
Properly securing farms and supplies as well as controlling the movement of persons on farms can limit the opportunities for disease spread. All persons and materials should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to remove any traces of the virus still present. Report signs of infection to the relevant authorities and persons must be mindful of the purchase and importation of live pigs and their by-products.