Preventive Measures on the Dreaded African Swine Fever

In the absence of vaccines or drugs to treat and control the African Swine Fever (ASF), the disease remains one of the most serious threats to swine health today. Highly infectious and contagious, ASF poses a grave risk even among countries not affected in the past. Thus, it is of outmost importance to ensure that strict preventive measures are adopted in ASF-free regions. To achieve this, precautionary measures, or biosecurity protocols should be implemented at all levels concerned.

Besides adopting  control measures, it is worth to examine and understand how swine get infected by the ASF. The virus spreads with the movement of an infected animal. Infection may be confirmed if the following symptoms are present over a significant period: reddening of skin areas; appetite loss; high fever (42 C); and hemorrhaging of internal organs. Once infection is verified, an incubation period ranging from four (4) hours to nineteen (19) days may be managed to minimize swine mortality, which could reportedly reach 100%.

Suggested preventive measures specifically include:

  • Farm movement and production flow management: Movement and production protocols may be followed inside and outside the farm to minimize risks of infection. One effective measure is implementing strict policies on safe entry of swine and risky items such as swills, pork and pork products, semen, raw materials, breeder stocks, and other related materials and substances. It is also helpful to make sure that farm or feed mill Quality Control units are appropriately equipped to detect any risk materials from vehicles, suppliers, buyers, or haulers. Items found risky or contaminated should be destroyed or disposed of, out of the reach of scavengers, which could increase chances of infection. Keeping track of virus survival on quarantine facilities may also be done by drawing timelines.
  • Swill feeding control: Although believed to be the responsible for the entry of ASF in most farms, swill feeding cannot be fully eliminated, as it is both a cultural and economic practice. Swill feeding, or giving pigs scraps and other waste materials for food, is commonly linked to potential spread of ASF, as the material likely contains infectious substances. However, it is a practice difficult to eradicate, since hog raisers can save up most of the 70% estimated cost or animal feeds. Swill feeding cannot be strictly banned, so hog raisers are trusted to be aware and understand the risks of this feeding practice.
  • Sanitary maintenance of equipment and facilities. Equipment and facilities are advised to be regularly cleaned and disinfected to reduce the risk of contamination. This includes elimination of organic matters from areas frequented by both man and animals (such as sheds, vehicles, and others), and disinfection of personnel’s tools, equipment, and garments upon entry and exit to farm facilities. Suggested disinfectants include: detergents, hypochlorite, alkalis, and glutaraldehyde. Exposure to sunlight over long periods of time has also been proven effective in disinfecting difficult to clean tools and equipment.
  • Farm personnel and visitors’ management. As potential transmitters of ASF, farm personnel and visitors must be carefully observed; hygiene should be maintained, and movement should be kept to a minimum. Loading and unloading swine is advised to be conducted outside perimeter fences. Hauler trucks are also recommended to be regularly cleaned and maintained after every un/loading, at safe distances from the farm vicinity. Farm staff should be assigned specific pig populations to look after, and discouraged to be in contact with other populations. They should also ensure wearing sterile clothing and footwear. Should breeding stock replacement be necessary, it is a priority to ensure that they come from trusted sources.
  • Zoning classification system and updates issuance. On a regulatory level, compliance to local laws governing entry of pigs and swine hogs and other related products among infected and non-infected regions should be strictly monitored. Basic and tacit knowledge on ASF—its origin, spread capacity, potential harm, and prevention—should be exchanged among hog raisers, science experts, and industry stakeholders. Among key areas that should be monitored and complied with are: 1) local laws and policies as aligned with those of the national government; 2) biosecurity protocols at all levels, responsive to specific epidemiological situations in the area; and 3) zone risk evaluation regularly conducted in coordination with farm owners, suppliers, government units, and other necessary stakeholders.
  • Individual Farm Profiling: With knowledge of potential threats and impacts of the ASF, programs such as seminars and campaigns, supportive of proactive examination of farms for suspected cases should be strengthened among hog raisers. Suspect cases must be reported to local government units and veterinary authorities for preemptive measures. As experts suggest, suspected cases should be accordingly monitored with clinical inspections, necropsies, and serology tests. To avoid recurring cases, thorough investigation of how cases spread is strongly recommended.
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