As African swine fever threatens Asia, Illinois producers continue precautions

Illinois Pork Producers Association reports an outbreak of swine fever such as what’s hitting China is not likely in the U.S. (Pixabay)

By Cole Lauterbach/Illinois Radio Network

SPRINGFIELD – An outbreak of African swine fever is decimating the Chinese pork market, but industry experts say preventive measures make a similar outbreak here highly unlikely.

The disease is spread from pig to pig and poses no threat to humans, but China has culled 24,000 pigs to stem the outbreak.

Here in the United States, there’s no sign of the fever and Illinois Pork Producers Association Executive Director Jennifer Tirey said an outbreak here is highly unlikely.

“One of the reasons is actually because of the cutting-edge way our producers raise our animals indoors now,” Tirey said. “A lot of the reasons for the African swine fever outbreak is that overseas there is still a lot of backyard animal raising. That leads to animals eating different types of scraps and things that are not being monitored properly.”

Tirey said Illinois farmers use a diet of corn and soy that is fed indoors. That prevents pigs from eating scraps outside that could be contaminated with the virus.

Tirey said biosecurity is crucial and that preventive steps have been in place in the U.S. for years.

“Every time our farmers take their pigs to market, those livestock trailers are then cleaned and literally baked to 160 degrees to kill any form of disease transmission.”

Pork producers have to take notice anytime a disease pops up in any part of the world, and Tirey said they are very cautious.

“It has a $16 billion potential impact on the United States if something like this came up because it wouldn’t only impact livestock but would also impact our corn and soybean markets as well since [for] those animals, that is their primary diet.”

The fever spreads mainly when pigs have snout-to-snout contact or through a tick that is not native to the U.S. There is no vaccine to protect pigs from the fever. It can be hard to kill, and can survive a long time in hot and cold conditions. Scientists said it could also linger in cured or dried pork products, which is why Tirey stresses the importance of biosecurity and not transporting unchecked products across borders.

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