Tuesday, August 28, 2018

FAO: African swine fever (ASF) threatens to spread from China to other Asian countries


Sunday's report (see South Korea Detects ASF Gene In Chinese Food Products: Additional Testing Underway) highlights how easily African Swine Fever could spread from China - where it was only first reported just over 3 weeks ago - to neighboring countries.
While not able to infect humans, ASF is highly lethal and contagious in swine, and has been steadily making its way across Eastern Europe and Russia since it arrived in Georgia in 2007.
For a country like China, the biggest pork raising and consuming country in the world - with hundred of millions of people to feed - its spread could prove devastating.

As we've discussed often in this blog, food insecurity - whether due to disease, floods, droughts, or other causes - can pose both severe economic and societal challenges (see Iran: Bird Flu, Food Insecurity & Civil Unrest).
A national security threat the central Chinese government is keen to avoid.
The FAO's report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 shows a sharp rise in food insecurity around the world since 2014 (see chart below), and warns:


Today the FAO has a fresh warning, and is calling for regional collaboration, to try to help stave off the greater spread of ASF across China and the rest of Asia.

Outbreak of African swine fever threatens to spread from China to other Asian countries 
FAO urges regional collaboration including stronger monitoring and preparedness measures

There is no effective vaccine to protect swine from the disease.
28 August 2018, Rome/Bangkok - The rapid onset of African Swine Fever (ASF) in China, and its detection in areas more than one thousand kilometres apart within the country, could mean the deadly pig virus may spread to other Asian countries anytime, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.

There is no effective vaccine to protect swine from the disease. And, while the disease poses no direct threat to human health, outbreaks can be devastating with the most virulent forms lethal in 100 percent of infected animals.

So far, in efforts to control the spread of the disease, Chinese authorities have culled more than 24,000 pigs in four provinces. China is a major pig producing country and accounts for approximately half the global population of swine, estimated at 500 million. Its value chain involves a very large and wide range of producers from small family holdings to large-scale commercial operators.

While this is not the first time African Swine Fever has been detected outside of Africa - outbreaks in Europe and the Americas date back to the 1960s - its detection and diverse geographical spread of the outbreaks in China have raised fears that the disease will move across borders to neighbouring countries of Southeast Asia or the Korean Peninsula where trade and consumption of pork products is also high.

A robust virus with a long life

The ASF virus is very hardy and can survive long periods in very cold and very hot weather, and even in dried or cured pork products. The strain detected in China is similar to one that infected pigs in eastern Russia in 2017 but, so far, and while the investigations continue, the China Animal Health and Epidemiology Center has found no conclusive evidence of this latest outbreak's source or linkages.

"The movement of pig products can spread diseases quickly and, as in this case of African Swine Fever, it's likely that the movement of such products, rather than live pigs, has caused the spread of the virus to other parts of China," explained Juan Lubroth, FAO's Chief Veterinarian.

FAO's Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) is communicating closely with authorities in China to monitor the situation and to respond effectively to the outbreak inside the country, as well as with authorities in neighbouring countries, to raise the importance of preparedness to respond to the threat of further spread.

(Continue . . . )

It would be bad enough if African Swine Fever and Avian flu were the only threats to agricultural production in China, but to these you can add:
AnthraxFoot & Mouth Disease (FMD), a bevy of porcine viruses (including Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS), Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) & porcine enteric alphacoronavirus [PEAV]), and an increasingly erratic global climate spawning floods, droughts, and heat waves.
To put it gently, the challenges of the 21st century continue to mount.