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Preparing for the worst: African swine fever in China

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African swine fever (ASF) is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever which, in domestic pigs and wild boar, results in case fatalities approaching 100 per cent. The disease has a very high socioeconomic impact in affected countries. Factors which make ASF very difficult to control include lack of a vaccine, presence of wildlife hosts and long survival of the virus in the environment and in pork products. The predicted growth of the global pork industry is very much at risk from the continued spread and devastating impact of ASF. This is particularly true of the People’s Republic of China, which has more than half of the world’s pig population.

Since emerging in the early 1900s from its ancient sylvatic cycle in East Africa, ASF has spread in domestic pig populations through sub-Saharan Africa. On two occasions ASF has spread out of Africa, first into Portugal, in 1957 and in 1960, and from there through Spain and Portugal, to other European countries, Brazil and Haiti. Eradication was eventually achieved in the mid-1990s except in the Italian island of Sardinia. The second ASF jump outside Africa occurred in 2007 to Georgia and from there to the Russian Federation and eastern Europe, including EU countries in the Baltic States, Poland and very recently the Czech Republic.

The emergence of ASF in varied epidemiological scenarios has provided different challenges for control, emphasising the need for each country to carry …

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