Research roundup: Could African swine fever make its way into the United States?
African swine fever (ASF), a contagious disease in pigs and wild boars, has been spreading across the Caucasus region, Europe, and Asia since 2007—since the 2018 outbreak in China, the country has slaughtered an estimated 1,170,000 animals. The disease does not infect humans and has not yet reached the United States, but following the recent spread of the disease in Asia and Western Europe a team of researchers from around the world, including Andres Perez, DVM, PhD, director of the Center for Animal Health and Food Safety at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, recently set out to measure the risk of ASF entering the United States through the smuggling of pork products in air passenger luggage. The study indicates that the risk of ASF arriving in the United States has nearly doubled since the ASF epidemic began in 2018, and that five specific airports account for over 90 percent of the potential risk: Newark-New Jersey, George Bush-Houston-Texas, Los Angeles-California, John F. Kennedy-New York, and San Jose-California. Additionally, the probability is high that the ASF virus is already reaching the US borders through smuggling of pork products, but, likely due to the work of United States Customs and Border Protection, the virus has not entered the country. If ASF were to enter the United States, its spread would cause immense economic damage to the pork industry and food production more broadly, and could lead to billions of dollars of losses for swine producers. This study’s findings can help support decision making for disease surveillance strategies in the U.S. swine industry and transportation hubs.
Learn more about this research in the October 8 paper published in Scientific Reports.