ASF re-emergence in Americas a warning to all

The re-emergence of African swine fever in the Dominican Republic is a warning to all animal protein producers to never let biosecurity lapse.

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Dusan Petkovic/
Dusan Petkovic/

African swine fever (ASF) has e-emerged in the Americas after an absence of almost 40 years. The disease has been found in the Dominican Republic, which last suffered an outbreak between 1978 and 1980.

We should all know by now that disease knows no boundaries, but how the virus found its way back to the Caribbean remains to be determined. What is known, however, is that its presence represents a significant risk for pig producers in the Americas. Although the disease does not affect poultry, producers should take its return as a wake-up call.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed the virus’ presence In late July in samples collected from pigs through a cooperative surveillance program. Testing of hogs raised on farms and backyards indicated that the disease was present in a small population of backyard pigs from Sanchez Ramirez and Montecristi provinces. Since then, however, the Dominican Republic’s veterinary authorities have confirmed the presence of the virus in no fewer than 11 of the country’s 32 provinces.

Constant reminders

If all the COVID-19 variants that have emerged and managed to evade controls have not been enough to remind us how quickly viruses can spread, then this outbreak of ASF really ought to act as a further reminder to all animal producers that disease is an ever-present danger.

Human movements and trade are often behind disease spread, but changing climatic conditions also, in some cases, make it far easier to circulate, and this outbreak proves that, even in times of limited travel, guards need to be kept up.

The region’s swine producers are understandably concerned. Brazil, for example, was quick to step up measures to prevent the disease’s entry and numerous other countries have already either issued warnings or stepped-up controls.

The re-emergence of ASF is a warning to all animal producers not to be complacent. Any lapse in biosecurity is a potential point of entry for a disease looking for a new herd or flock to infect.

There are countless examples of individual pig and poultry companies where biosecurity has not been what it should be and they have paid the price. Unfortunately, the lax procedures of a single company can affect a whole country or even region for years.

So never think that simply because it is happening over there that it won’t happen over here, be that geographically or in another industry sector.

 Here’s hoping that the military, which has already been called in by the Dominican Republic’s government, is able to bring the ASF outbreak under control quickly and that the disease spreads no further.

But should the poultry sector really be concerned by outbreak beyond preparing for a possible upturn in demand for poultry meat should swine herds be decimated?

Sadly, it should. It is worth remembering that there is always something circulating just waiting to make its home in your investments. It’s up to you to make sure that doesn’t happen.

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