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African Swine Fever In Pigs

3 August 2020

While the spring and summer have been dominated by coronavirus and lockdowns, African Swine Fever (ASF) cases continue to be reported throughout Central and Eastern Europe as well as further afield.  The last few months may have seen very limited travel to the UK from these areas however as restrictions are eased movements of people to and from ASF affected areas will increase.  As restrictions are lifted at home there will also be an increase in members of the public using the countryside for leisure purposes. 

The message to all pig keepers and smallholders is that the current risk of African Swine Fever (ASF) being introduced to the UK through contaminated or infected products remains at medium. 

ASF is spread to pigs by the following ways  

  • Pigs eating infected pig meat or meat products 
  • Contact with infected pigs or wild boar, faeces or body fluids 
  • Contact with anything contaminated with the virus e.g. vehicles, clothing or footwear 
  • Bites by infectious ticks 

Remaining vigilant and observing good biosecurity is vital to keeping the disease out.  This applies both on farm and also to those who have travelled to and from affected areas.  Those travelling to affected areas should on their return avoid contact with any pigs and avoid habitats where wild boar are present until they are confident they have no contaminated clothing, equipment or footwear and should not take home any pork products.  All clothing, footwear and equipment should be disinfected before entering pig areas. All pig keepers should also ensure that visitors have not had contact with affected regions1. 

While all pig keepers should be fully aware that it is prohibited to feed any catering or kitchen waste or pork products to pigs it is also important that the general public are aware of this – not only is this illegal but is also the most likely potential cause of infection. Any food waste should be disposed of correctly to minimise the risk from pigs either eating infected food material or indeed it being carried by birds. 

All pig keepers, producers, smallholders and their staff should remind themselves of the clinical signs which include (1)  

Clinical signs

  • high fever 
  • loss of appetite 
  • haemorrhages in the skin and internal organs 
  • death in 2-10 days on average 

Other signs can include 

  • vomiting 
  • diarrhoea 
  • red or dark skin, particularly on the ears and snout 
  • discharges from the eyes and nose 
  • laboured breathing and coughing 
  • abortions 
  • weakness 
  • unsteady gait 

Some photos of infected pigs can be found here 

The European Food Safety Authority has produced an ASF animation as a guide. https://youtu.be/eyQ4t1wHl2M 

African Swine Fever is a notifiable disease and if suspected in Scotland, your vet and local APHA Field Services Office should be contacted immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.  Advising the Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre (SPDCC) at the same time may also facilitate sector response.  

Sources. 1 Animal Plant Health Agency 

The following links contain useful resources (posters etc) for display from AHDB Pork 

https://ahdb.org.uk/african-swine-fever-resources-and-posters 

Other Information 

http://www.npa-uk.org.uk/ASF.html 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/african-swine-fever 

George Chalmers, george.chalmers@sac.co.uk and Jill Thomsonjill.thomson@sac.co.uk

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