June 2, 2020


US prepares for African swine fever outbreak with comprehensive response plan


The US Department of Agriculture has issued a new and comprehensive preparedness and response plan in the event African swine fever breaks out in the country.


The "ASF Response Plan: The Red Book", prepared by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), was borne out of the recent spread of ASF in Asia and Europe, which "has elevated preparedness activities in the United States".


The USDA APHIS admitted that significant work remains toward responding effectively to ASF. "Preparing for and responding to an ASF outbreak is and will be a complex effort that requires collaboration and cooperation from all stakeholders" the agency said.


The USDA notes that although ASF has never been detected in the US, international travel and trade pose a substantial risk for viral incursion into the country. "Illegal entry of swine products and byproducts presents the largest potential pathway for entry of ASF virus (ASFV) into the United States", it said.


Since there is currently no effective vaccine available for ASF virus, the plan says the US' primary control and eradication (response) strategy for ASF is the establishment of quarantines and movement controls with eradication by stamping-out.


Stamping-out is the depopulation of clinically affected swine and, as appropriate, swine that are directly exposed to the virus.


The plan says that movement control measures are critical since ASF is easily spread by infected swine and contaminated fomites.


In the event ASF is detected in domestic swine, the primary control strategy, the plan says, is the establishment of control areas around infected premises, while the primary eradication strategy is stamping-out through killing of the affected animals and those suspected of being affected in the herd or flock; the disposal of carcasses and, where relevant, animal products by rendering, burning or burial; and the cleansing and disinfection of establishments through proper procedures. 


ASF is a contagious hemorrhagic disease of pigs, which is often characterised by high morbidity and mortality rates. It has no effective treatment and so far no vaccine yet. The disease does not pose a risk to human health or food safety.