Emergency pig disease: African swine fever (ASF)

Page last updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2019 - 1:32pm

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious virus that causes an often fatal disease in pigs and wild boar. The disease is similar to classical swine fever, although they are caused by different viruses. Both diseases only affect pigs and are exotic to Australia. People are not affected by African swine fever or classical swine fever.

Biosecurity alert

Historically, African swine fever has been endemic to Africa and Sardinia (Italy). However, in 2007 the disease spread to parts of the Caucasus and eastern Europe after wild boar accessed food waste from an international airport. Since 2016 the disease spread has escalated and African swine fever has been spreading rapidly throughout much of eastern Europe.

In August 2018 the first case of African swine fever was detected in China. China has the world's largest population of pigs and this has had a serious impact on their pig industry. This disease is now widespread across a number of continents and poses a major threat to pig producing countries, including Australia.

Recent testing by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) on pork products seized at international airports and mail processing centres over a two-week period revealed that that six of 152 products tested were contaminated with African swine fever virus. This finding demonstrates the risk to Australia from the virus

You can help to keep African swine fever out of Australia. Do not feed meat or products containing meat to pigs – this is illegal and can cause diseases including ASF.

Always report any unusual deaths in pigs, including feral pigs, or suspicion of African swine fever to to your private vet, local DPIRD vet or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on: 1800 675 888. Early detection increases our chances of eradicating the disease if it does occur here.

There is no vaccination for African swine fever and the death rate can reach 100%.

What are the signs of African swine fever?

African swine fever is indistinguishable from classical swine fever on clinical appearance alone and testing is essential to differentiate the diseases. The severity of signs varies depending on the strain of virus and the level of immunity of the pig herd. Because Australian pigs have no immunity, signs of these diseases may be more severe if introduced.

Signs may include:

  • increased death rate
  • high fever and loss of appetite
  • skin reddening
  • blueness of extremities (including ears)
  • coughing and difficulty breathing
  • diarrhoea
  • vomiting
  • abortions.

How does African swine fever spread?

The most likely way that African swine fever would enter Australia is via feeding illegally imported pig meat or other pig products to pigs.

The virus is very resistant to physical and chemical factors and can survive smoking, drying and freezing for several months. Once the disease occurs, it then spreads between pigs through contact with faeces, urine and other discharges or through use of contaminated equipment, vehicles and clothing. Some species of ticks can also spread African swine fever. The only species ticks capable of carrying ASF in Australia are not known to feed on pigs.

To prevent African swine fever, classical swine fever, and other devastating diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, it is illegal to feed pigs anything that contains meat or meat products, or food that has come into contact with meat or meat products (except approved meatmeals). See the webpage on pig feed for more information.

How can I reduce the risk of African swine fever occurring on my property?

To reduce the risk of African swine fever occurring in your pigs:

  • Do not feed pigs anything that contains or has had contact with meat or meat products. See the webpage on swill feeding for more information.
  • Maintain strong biosecurity on your property. Ensure all visitors and workers use sound biosecurity measures.

For more information, contact your local DPIRD vet. See the webpage for contact details: Livestock Biosecurity program contacts.

Report signs of African swine fever or classical swine fever immediately to protect Australian pigs

Both classical and African swine fever are reportable diseases as they can cause high numbers of pig deaths, reduced growth rates and production.

If one of these diseases were introduced, it would affect pig welfare as well as disrupting our pig meat exports, severely impacting the pig industry.

If you see any signs of classical or African swine fever:

  • isolate the affected animal(s)
  • do not move any livestock off your property and
  • call your private vet or DPIRD vet, or the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.

Contact information

Sue Skirrow
+61 (0)8 9892 8490
Vanessa Rushworth
+61 (0)8 9368 3076