ASF causes a haemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in domestic and wild pigs. It does not cause disease in people.
It can cause death of pigs as quickly as a week after infection. The virus is secreted in all bodily fluids and the infection is by contact, particularly blood passed from the mouth, nostrils and faeces. It needs direct contact or ingestion to spread so you don’t see large numbers of pigs infected at once, unlike Classical Swine Fever which is transmitted by the respiratory route. You see hot, red, depressed, sick pigs with bloody diarrhoea huddling up in a corner before dying. There is no vaccine.
Importantly, the virus can live “for months” in, and be transmitted through, raw, cured and cooked meat products like salami and sausage intended for human consumption. The disease is widespread in Asia, with half the pigs in China being slaughtered in an attempt to control the disease. It is also present in Russia, Belarus and Eastern Europe and is spreading west. Wild boar and wild pig populations are a huge risk factor in the spread of the disease as well as human spread through pork products.
Prof Thomson, an RCVS specialist in veterinary pathology (farm animals) and a diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Pathologists, states: “Being an island nation, we have very clear borders and very clear controls over importation of animals and animal products, so every effort must be made not to allow any illegal imports of meat or anything else that’s going to put the UK pig population at risk.” Please inform anyone you know going to Europe not to bring home any meat products containing pork to protect our pig industry.
If you suspect a case please phone DEFRA on 03000 200 301 or your local vet.