USDA creates plan against African swine fever
In a Sept. 14 webinar, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) shares the prevention, planning, response and outreach in the U.S. against African Swine Fever (ASF).
USDA APHIS Director of Aquaculture, Swine, Equine and Poultry Alan Huddleston shares his agency’s knowledge on the topic.
Huddleston discusses several strategies to mitigate risk and prevent the ASF virus from entering the U.S. In partnering with federal agencies, states, industry and international partners, APHIS’s goal is to keep the U.S. swine population protected.
“The first priority is to keep ASF out of the country,” shares Huddleston, noting ASF has never been detected in the U.S. and until August 2021, the disease has not been detected in the western hemisphere. With the most recent confirmed outbreak of ASF occurring in Hispaniola, “Vigilance is critical,” Huddleston says.
First, APHIS has several protective measures in place to prevent the introduction of ASF, shares Huddleston.
“APHIS currently restricts the import of live swine and products derived from swine, including meat, from countries that are affected with ASF,” he explains.
In addition, livestock must be disease free of “foot and mouth disease, classical swine fever and swine vesicular disease,” shares Huddleston. “A country or region must be considered free of disease to allow the import of live swine and unprocessed products, including fresh meat.”
APHIS maintains a list of infected countries on their public webpage, according to Huddleston. Internationally, APHIS also recognizes the zoning established by the European Union (EU).
Huddleston notes, “Swine and unprocessed swine products are prohibited entry if they are derived from restricted zones established within the EU due to the detection of ASF in domestic or feral swine.”
Third, APHIS also manages and maintains restrictions on international waste transported via ship, plane or other international travel. Under APHIS guidelines, ASF waste must be removed, sealed and treated in a manner that sufficiently kills the AFS virus, says Huddleston.
In addition to these guidelines, USDA announced on Aug. 26, APHIS’s intent to establish a foreign animal disease protection zone in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Lastly, APHIS’s most critical protection comes from work done every day by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). USDA and CBP work collaboratively to reduce risk of ASF entering the country.
Huddleston shares, “CBP screens passengers and commercial shipments entering the U.S. for prohibited agricultural items.”
In addition to keeping the ASF virus out of the country, interior barriers must be considered in protecting the U.S. swine population, says Huddleston.
“Two of those barriers include preventing the feeding of untreated garbage to swine, and monitoring and education of ethnic markets,” he explains.
“In 1980, Congress passed the Swine Health and Protection (SHPA) Act authorizing the USDA to regulate food waste containing any meat products fed to swine,” Huddleston shares. “Compliance with this act ensures all food waste fed to swine is properly treated to kill disease organisms such as the ASF virus.”
The SHPA regulations state, “Garbage intended for feeding must be cooked to 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Centigrade for 30 minutes to kill harmful viruses,” according to Huddleston.
“Currently, 27 states, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands permit garbage feeding of swine and 23 states prohibit the activity,” Huddleston continues.
In addition, several other states and APHIS oversee the distribution of waste in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Based on this collaboration, USDA APHIS works with state partners to increase inspections and enforce compliance at disposal facilities.
Additionally, USDA closely monitors ethnic markets for elicit sales of pork and pork products, says Huddleston.
“Our APHIS Smuggling Interdiction and Trade Compliance (SITC) routinely visits ethnic markets, enforcing import regulations and providing education to sellers and customers to reduce ASF risk,” he says.
Planning and response
APHIS has been actively engaged in “planning and response activities, increase diagnostic capacity, surveillance and risk analysis,” shares Huddleston. “USDA developed an ASF response plan, also known as the ASF ‘red book,’ which serves as a guideline for producers in managing a confirmation of the disease.”
USDA also works closely with state animal health officials as they review and update their own ASF state response plans.
“Planning and practice complement one another,” says Huddleston, noting the USDA is actively involved in both response outreach and exercises.
Prior to COVID-19, APHIS hosted several in-person events to identify opportunities for improvement to strengthen response to ASF. Between 2018-19, APHIS completed a series of four ASF planning and response activities in partnerships with states and the swine industry.
Additionally, “APHIS has also been hosting a series of virtual training and exercise program events for external stake holders due to the pandemic,” says Huddleston. Recordings can be easily accessed on the APHIS website.
Lastly, USDA has been working closely with Canada and Mexico in a series of ASF symposia for North America.
“The objectives are to identify where APHIS and producers can support one another with planning and response resources, and align strategies to reduce the impact of an ASF outbreak,” says Huddleston. The final symposia will take place in 2022, shares Huddleston.
“USDA also performs foreign animal disease investigations for all domestic pigs showing clinical signs consistent with AFS,” says Huddleston. “The goal is to strengthen detection capabilities, enhance outbreak preparedness and support claims of disease freedoms.”
Huddleston concludes his presentation by sharing the importance of keeping stakeholders informed. APHIS’s goal is to raise awareness, share information and prepare communications in the case of an outbreak.
In his final remarks, Huddleston comments, “Report suspect cases, practice good biosecurity on the farm including those returning from international travel, be aware and remember pork and pork products from ASF-infected countries are strictly prohibited.”
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.