Fit to trade bulletin

Keep out African swine fever with these steps

Pig with African swine fever
Pigs with African swine fever may have can skin redness with blue areas around the tip of ears, below the knees, tail, perianal area, chest and abdomen. This pig has reddened ears, conjunctivitis and a high temperature. Photo credit: The Pirbright Institute.

Pig owners and hunters are a key line of defence in keeping African swine fever out of Australia.

The disease is present in sub-Saharan Africa and more recently has been spreading westwards in Europe with a large outbreak across 23 provinces in China in 2018.

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) vet Sue Skirrow said that this highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs caused high death rates.

“We have never had African swine fever in Australia, and it is crucial to keep it out,” Dr Skirrow said.

“This disease would have a significant impact on pig health and production in Australia, and contribute to wider economic impacts caused by a loss of access to overseas markets for our pork products.

“An outbreak would also be very difficult and costly to eradicate.”

Dr Skirrow said the most likely way that African swine fever could be introduced into Australia was by illegal importation of infected meat, such as in airline passenger luggage, which is then fed to pigs.

“Feeding meat or products with meat in them to pigs (swill feeding) is illegal in Australia to protect Australian livestock from exotic diseases like African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease,” Dr Skirrow said.

“It is vital that all pig owners and handlers comply with these swill feeding restrictions as they are designed protect the livestock of Australia from a variety of serious diseases.

“It is important for all pig owners, people arriving from overseas and people ordering goods online to be aware of the risk associated with African swine fever.”

Dr Skirrow said that in addition to ensuring no meat or meat products were fed to pigs, pig owners could take steps to prevent this disease occurring in their animals. 

“Most pig farmers have good on-farm biosecurity measures in place including entry controls, hygiene and visitor logs. These practices need be maintained,” she said.

“It also a good time to undertake or revise staff training regarding your biosecurity arrangements.

“Always report any unusual ill health in your pigs or in wild pigs, including multiple deaths, to your vet or a DPIRD field vet or call the Emergency Animal Disease hotline on 1800 675 888.”

“The signs of African swine fever are high death rates, often coupled with discolouration of ears and limbs due to a high fever.”

For more information, see the DPIRD webpage on African swine fever and federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources webpage.