March 27, 2020 – Vol. 3 Issue 3

Brought to you by: Pork Checkoff, in collaboration with National Pork Producers Council, American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Swine Health Information Center, North American Meat Institute and U.S. Department of Agriculture

America’s Top 5 ASF Concerns

Even as the world has fixated on the coronavirus pandemic, African swine fever (ASF) has not taken a break in its relentless assault on the global swine herd, with more than 50 countries actively battling the costly disease. So far, the United States has avoided being added to this dubious list, but that requires ongoing vigilance and action.

 At the recent American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting, veterinarian Clayton Johnson, a partner with Carthage Veterinary Services, Carthage, Illinois, offered five things that producers and veterinarians can keep in mind as the look to prevent ASF from entering the United States or from spreading once it arrives.
  1. Contaminated Pork. “The carcass is the biggest risk of transmission, whether a mortality or processed meat,” Johnson said. “For example, transmission could happen at one of our national parks if a foreign visitor brought in illegal meat products.”

    He said that it’s a good idea to follow a no-pork-allowed policy on your pig farm when it comes to food items eaten on the premises. Johnson also recommends eliminating feeding kitchen waste and garbage. (Some states allow this under strict regulation.)
  2. Contaminated Visitors. “Exclusion is always a principle to apply in biosecurity,” Johnson said. “Complete exclusion of visitors from infected countries should be enforced.”

    A five-day downtime for foreign visitors is recommended when exclusion isn’t possible or practical. Provide visitors U.S.-sourced clothing and footwear for farm visits and don’t let them bring their items onto the premises.
  3. Contaminated Transport Vehicles: “Remember, there are about 1 million pigs on the road in the U.S. every day,” Johnson said. "That creates a major vulnerability if ASF enters our country."

    Because transportation biosecurity is key to any biosecurity program, have a stringent cleaning and disinfection protocol in place. Disinfection processes can be effective, including chemical, thermal and pH manipulation.
  4. Contaminated Mortality Equipment: “I don’t feel confident that we will find ASF quickly once it enters the country,” Johnson said. “That’s why the first mortalities will spread the disease as normal disposal methods are used.”

    Shared rendering vehicles pose a big risk, so rethink that disposal method, especially if a clear/dirty line isn’t followed. Also, be sure that pick-up locations are free of rodents, predators and birds.
  5. Contaminated Feed Ingredients: “We have good data to guide us with the recent research that’s been done,” Johnson said. “That’s why we want a minimum of four weeks of holding time so we don’t bring in virus from ASF-positive countries.”

    Imported feed ingredients pose a significant risk for ASF and other foreign animal diseases, so avoid using imported feed ingredients from ASF-positive countries when possible. Also, consider using chemical disinfectants with residual activity and always observe recommended holding times/temperatures for imported ingredients.
ASF Is a Global Battle
“Half of the world is in some stage of the battle against ASF on their soil,” Johnson said. “However, the United States holds the greatest arsenal of weapons to fight ASF with our good biosecurity strategies, diagnostic expertise, vaccines in development and good cleaning and sanitation capabilities.”

Johnson advocates sharing resources and expertise as much as possible in the fight against ASF. That includes veterinarians, researchers, diagnosticians, pharmaceutical companies and others coming together.

“When a country becomes positive for ASF, we don’t see it going back to normal,” Johnson said. “We should be very disturbed by this reality and do whatever is necessary to prevent from becoming the next ASF casualty.”

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Checkoff, Industry Partners Create Farm Crisis Operations Tool 

Working with experts at the National Pork Producers Council, the Swine Health Information Center and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health and Production team has created a new tool to assist farmers and veterinarians with developing site- or operation-specific crisis operating plans.

Regardless of the potential crisis or issue, the Farm Crisis Operations Planning Tool is a great resource for producers, veterinarians and anyone who works on a pig farm to use and be ready to implement before it’s needed,” said Dave Pyburn, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Board. “The benefits of using this tool are obvious during a time such as COVID-19, but they will be even more indispensable should we ever get a foreign animal disease.” 

The PDF-based tool can be customized when downloaded using the editable fields in its 13 pages. Key highlights include focusing on resources and supplies that may be affected during various states of emergency. It also covers major factors to consider when developing a crisis operations plan.

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ASF Strikes Commercial Herd in Western Poland

Rest of Europe Worried or ASF-Positive

In what had been the domain of only wild boar that were positive for African swine fever (ASF), now a commercial swine herd in western Poland has succumbed to the costly viral disease, affecting more than 23,000 pigs. It marks the largest Polish farm infected with ASF since the nation reported an outbreak in 2014.

According to Poland’s Chief Veterinary Inspectorate, the recent outbreak was confirmed on March 21 in Niedoradz, Lubusz province, is only 41 air miles (66 km) east of Germany, Europe’s largest pork producer (see red marker).

As reported by Top Agrar in Germany, Polish authorities have ordered the immediate culling of the stock, including about 6,900 sows. Authorities have set up protection and surveillance zones and a report has been filed in the European Animal Disease Notification System (ADNS).

In reports gathered by Pig Progress, authorities in Poland have discovered more than 500 sites in the western part of the nation to have ASF-positive wild boar or carcasses. This statistic is even more alarming given that no case was found before November 2019 in western Poland. Meanwhile, the east of the country has been dealing with ASF in both wild and domestic herds since 2014.

Rest of Europe Nervous or Fighting Active ASF
As reported in this Pork Checkoff-funded publication last month, all European countries remain either vigilant for ASF introduction or are battling active ASF infections. The latter is more true of eastern and southern Europe than northern and western Europe (except far southern Belgium) at this time.

In the last European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report, ASF is seen to be progressively, but slowly, expanding mainly in a southwesterly direction. However, there is evidence in all affected countries that is suggestive of human-mediated translocation of the virus. The most obvious examples of this include the introduction of ASF into Belgium, Czech Republic and western Poland. On another negative note, the report said there is no evidence that large fences have been effective for the containment of wild boar. However, it’s too soon to know if new large-scale fences will fare better at controlling ASF-infected pigs.

As is true across the world, the ASF situation varies substantially between EU member states due to multiple influences. Notable among these include the nature of domestic pig production (in particular, the proportion of backyard holdings), geographic considerations (including topography, natural barriers) and the characteristics of the wild boar population.

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New Test Can Detect ASF in Raw Pork and Pigs 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  Science and Technology Directorate  (S&T) and Nebraska-based MatMaCorp completed a successful evaluation of a genetic test to detect African swine fever (ASF) virus in infected pigs and pork products. The small, portable platform includes a DNA/RNA isolation kit and a custom assay could help protect against ASF introduction into the United States while also ensuring domestic pork is safe for export.

“An introduction of ASF into the United States could eliminate the domestic pork export market,” said John Neilan, S&T science director at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC). “There is currently no vaccine or field-deployable detection device to protect livestock in the event of an ASF outbreak. That’s why we are focused on testing and evaluating countermeasures to prevent, respond to, and recover from a possible large-scale ASF outbreak.” 

Through a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with MatMaCorp, the team assessed how well the MatMaCorp’s portable nucleic acid analysis system detects the ASF virus in the field. Both PIADC and MatMaCorp collected clinical tissue samples from infected laboratory pigs, including oral fluid, blood, meat tissue, bone marrow and spleen. Using MatMaCorp’s tools, researchers were able to detect the virus in all samples.

“Technologies like these allow testing to move out of the lab and onto the front lines,” said Michael Puckette, the S&T PIADC microbiologist who led the work. “This test has the potential to be used to monitor raw pork product imports as well as domestically produced samples during pork processing.”

The CRADA with MatMaCorp is a byproduct of the work at PIADC conducted by the ASF Task Force, an interagency collaboration between DHS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The ASF Task Force is working to coalesce expertise, resources, and capabilities around mitigating the threat posed by accidental or intentional introduction of ASF in the United States.

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Pig Farmers Part of Essential Infrastructure

Checkoff Provides Travel Letter Template

As assigned by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the nation’s food and agriculture sector is one of 16 critical areas for our nation during this national emergency related to COVID-19. As such, the President has asked America’s farmers and those in all parts of the food chain to continue to work as normally as possible to help ensure that our domestic food supply remains uninterrupted.

America’s pig farmers are part of this essential infrastructure of Food and Agriculture, which is why the Pork Checkoff is providing a travel letter template that can be filled out and used for producers, employees and critical workforce. Review your state’s guidance in the full list of statewide orders for additional details.

"The purpose of your investment in Checkoff is to provide resources like this to assist you to be as successful as possible," said Bryan Humphreys, vice president of producer and state engagement at the National Pork Board. “We hope this tool offers a bit of assistance along with other Pork Checkoff’s other COVID-19 resources to help ensure producers can continue to do a great job of producing high-quality U.S. pork even during stressful times.”

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USCBP Collaborating for Better Protection 

Executive Director Responds to Industry Questions

In a presentation during the recent American Association of Swine Veterinarians meeting in Atlanta, Kevin Harriger, executive director of Agriculture Programs & Trade Liaison for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP), told attendees that his agency was focused on enhancing capabilities, continuing outreach and collaboration.

The nation’s 2,940 ag specialist agents of the USCBP typically screen about 1.1 million foreign passengers per day entering the country (obviously a much smaller number during COVID-19 period). This is done with the help of about 189 canine specialists (Beagle Brigade) nationwide.

Through various methodologies of risk assessment and communication, USCBP agents target high-risk passengers while using sometimes undetectable techniques for low-risk passengers. Regardless, the goal is interdiction of any prohibited item, especially ones that pose a real threat to animal or plant agriculture.

“At 26 international airports, we are currently running warnings on African swine fever on TV monitors for incoming passengers,” Harriger said. “It’s done so in a non-scientific way to resonate with the public.”

Paul Sundberg, DVM, director of the Swine Health Information Center, asked Harriger, “What are the top metrics you use for your agents to keep ASF out of the country?”

Harriger responded: “Before working with the pork industry groups, we didn’t have any. Now we look at target efficiencies. Every year we look at fewer people, but we’re finding more (contraband.) That in itself is an efficiency metric. We’re up over 8% in what we are finding in the inspections we perform. Specifically, for animal products and byproducts, it gets down to very targeted flights and we’re trying to ramp that up and make it easier to implement and expand.”

From the National Pork Board, Chief Veterinarian Dave Pyburn, DVM, asked Harriger, “We saw RFID technology for incoming baggage deemed suspect by beagles at the Miami International Airport recently. This helped expand the number of bags a single dog could screen significantly. How long before this process is expanded nationwide?”

Harriger responded: “We are beta-testing this now. It’s like when you try to steal a big item at a store and the alarms go off. The RFID tag would trigger an alarm if the passenger does not see an agent for secondary screening before trying to leave the baggage area. It’s somewhat pricy for the required stanchions, but we want this system to be in place in all of our high-risk airports (scroll down after clicking) in 2021."

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FDA Eases VCPR Requirements for COVID-19 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is suspending enforcement of portions of the federal veterinary-client-patient (VCPR) requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aim is to help veterinarians use telemedicine to address animal health needs for their clients by easing FDA’s enforcement of the animal examination and premises visit portion of the current VCPR requirements. Specifically, this will relate to how FDA governs Extralabel Drug Use in Animals and Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs. 

The new directive will allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs (water-based or injectables) in an extralabel manner or authorize the use of VFD drugs without direct examination of or making visits to their patients, which will limit human-to-human interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community. For example, a veterinarian could remotely examine and diagnose a group of food-producing animals with a skin disease, and then authorize the use of certain drugs in the animals’ feed.

Although the FDA intends to temporarily suspend certain federal VCPR requirements, veterinarians still need to consider state VCPR requirements that may exist in their practice area. As always, clients (pork producers) should talk with their veterinarians on how this change may affect their day-to-day operations. 

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COVID-19 Biosecurity Recommendations

The Swine Disease Eradication center at the University of Minnesota recently released practical recommendations regarding biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in farm workers and other allied operations. Here are the top five things that you should do. To see the entire list, download the pdf version of the document, which is available in Spanish as well.
  1. Limit farm entrance to essential personnel or personnel performing essential activities. Exceptions to this must be approved by the farms’ biosecurity officer and/or upper management. Essential activities are those required for the care and wellbeing of the animals, workers and facilities, and require prompt attention. 
  2. Persons who are sick or have signs of illness (e.g. fever, coughing, sneezing, runny nose, tiredness, shortness of breath) should stay home and call a doctor or healthcare provider. 
  3. Upon entering the farm, immediately wash hands with soap for 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is recommended if washing with soap is not available. 
  4. Place special care when disinfecting personal objects that need to enter farms (e.g. cell phones, etc.) and all materials entering farms in particular those handled by farm workers. Follow farm established procedures to disinfect incoming materials. Handle the materials with disposable gloves, if available.
  5. Avoid close physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging when greeting co-workers.
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Herd Depopulation and Carcass Disposal Info

To be better prepared in the event of a foreign animal disease event, several on-farm methods of depopulation and disposal were covered during the Pork Checkoff’s recent ASF and Carcass Disposal webinar, which featured information from USDA engineer Lori Miller. Many relevant USDA resources can be found on its carcass disposal management dashboard resource for producers. It lists many types of disposal methods, pros and cons of each and a worksheet to help farmers determine what might work best in different scenarios. 

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ASF Present in Over 50 Countries

When it comes to African swine fever (ASF), today it seems it’s almost easier to say where the virus isn’t present. According to the World Health Organization (OIE), more than 40 countries have reported the deadly virus either in wild or domestic pigs during the past five years (It’s over 50 countries without this caveat). Of course, not all of these countries are significant pork producers, but the diversity of ASF’s geographic spread shows how easily the virus can spread.
Burkina Faso
Cabo Verde
Central African Republic
Cote D'Ivoire
Czech Republic
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Korea

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African Swine Fever Risk Calls for Action

The global African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China is wreaking havoc on the international pork industry. Fortunately, ASF is not in the United States at this time, but the possibility of it or another foreign animal disease (FAD), means that American pig farmers must take the necessary steps to protect their farms and the domestic pork industry.

As U.S. pig farmers know, a robust export market is critical to the ongoing success of the nation’s pork industry. In 2018, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports totaled 5.37 billion pounds valued at $6.392 billion, according to USDA. If an FAD such as ASF entered the United States, it would likely eliminate exports for an unknown amount of time. Taking steps to prevent this from happening requires immediate actions, such as those outlined in the resources noted in this newsletter and found at

On-Farm Biosecurity Resources
To help guard against FADs, consider using these checklists and fact sheets for pigs raised indoors or outdoors. These resources will help you develop an enhanced biosecurity plan that is unique to your own farm’s needs.

Know the Signs…
Anyone who works with pigs should be familiar with the signs of ASF in animals:

  • High fever
  • Decreased appetite and weakness
  • Red, blotchy skin or skin lesions
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing

To help ensure none of these signs are overlooked, be sure to get free hard copies of FAD Barn Posters and fact sheets in English or Spanish from the Pork Checkoff by going to the Pork Store via

Know Who to Call…
Immediately report animals with any of ASF signs to your herd veterinarian or to your state or federal animal health officials. You also may call USDA’s toll-free number at (866) 536-7593 for appropriate testing and investigation. Timeliness is essential to preventing the spread of ASF, so don’t delay if you see any of these signs.

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Key Facts to Know about African Swine Fever

Pork is safe to eat. African swine fever is not in the United States. U.S. pigs are not affected by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in other countries, to date.

  • ASF does not affect humans and therefore is not a public health threat according to USDA. 
  • ASF is a disease of pigs only and therefore is not a threat to non-swine pets or other livestock.
  • As usual, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food supply, including if ASF is detected in the U.S.
  • As with any food product, you should always follow safe handling and cooking instructions to protect your family's health.
African swine fever is a viral disease impacting only pigs, not people --- so it is not a public health threat nor a food-safety concern.
  • ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through contact with pigs or pork.
  • ASF only affects members of the pig family.
  • ASF can be transmitted to pigs through feeding of food waste containing contaminated pork products. The Swine Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste containing meat to pigs to ensure that it is safe.
  • ASF is transmitted to pigs through direct contact with infected pigs, their waste, blood, contaminated clothing, feed, equipment and vehicles, and in some cases, some tick species.
The USDA does not allow importation of pigs or fresh pork products into the U.S. from areas or regions of the world that are reported positive for the ASF virus.
  • Restrictions are based on USDA’s recognition of the animal health status of the region and are enforced by the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service.
  • International travelers should be diligent in following all rules and regulations related to the US Customs and Border Patrol reentry declarations.
Why is ASF not a human health concern?
  • African swine fever is a viral disease affecting only pigs, not people; so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern.
  • According to Dan Rock, Professor of Pathobiology, University of Illinois, most viruses demonstrate some degree of host restriction; they replicate in one cell type or host and not in another. While there are exceptions, this is the general rule not the exception. In the case of ASF virus, there is no evidence supporting either subclinical or clinical infection of humans. 
  • The host restriction in ASF virus is likely due to the absence of susceptible and permissive cells needed for viral replication. It could also be related to the inability of the virus to overcome intrinsic and innate host responses generated following ASF virus exposure.
Can countries with ASF export pork?
  • The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of pigs. 
  • Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade.
  • The United States has never had a case of African swine fever and there are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and DHS Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response strategy for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.
What is the U.S. pork industry doing in response to ASF and preparedness to protect the U.S. swine herd?
  • In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and collaborate with the USDA.
  • The organizations are working together to gather intelligence, engage subject matter experts, assess risk and determine appropriate actions moving forward to address the issue. As this situation continues to develop, we will provide future updates.
For a full list of producer resources and tools about ASF, please click on or call the Pork Checkoff at 1-800-456-7675. Detailed consumer information on ASF is available at

Additional Information
African swine fever is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern. The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of swine. Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade. The United States has never had a case of African swine fever. There are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response plan for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.

In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and to collaborate with the USDA.

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FAD Resources from Pork Checkoff and Other Industry Partners

National Pork Board FAD Resources Holding Time Calculations for Feed Ingredients
FAD Preparation Checklist for Producers Hosting International Visitors on Your Farm
Traveling Overseas Biosecurity USDA Disease Response Strategy: ASF
African Swine Fever Fact Sheet U.S. Pork Industry Guide to the Secure Pork Supply Plan
Secure Pork Supply Website FAD Resource Packet w/Posters
Webinar: FAD and Secure Pork Supply Plan, What You Need to Know SHIC Global Disease Monitoring Reports
Iowa Pork Industry Center ASF Resources What Swine Growers Need to Know about Garbage Feeding

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For more information:


Please send questions and comments about this newsletter to:

Mike King

Director of Science Communications
National Pork Board 
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Copyright © 2020 National Pork Board, All rights reserved.

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