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While the United States has never had a case of African Swine Fever (ASF), the growing number of diagnosed cases occurring on the Asia continent has raised concern for our domestic pork industry. The highly contagious nature of this virus is very threatening and there is currently no vaccine. Swine producers need to be aware of signs of ASF, communicate with their veterinarians, and increase biosecurity to protect their herds. Even a farm with just a few pigs could become infected and spread the virus to other farms in Delaware. The ASF virus does not pose a threat to human health or food safety.
What are signs of ASF in pigs?
The challenge of quickly recognizing and containing ASF is that symptoms in swine can initially mimic other, more common diseases including salmonellosis, erysipelas, and Porcine Respiratory and Reproduction Syndrome (PRRS). Producers should enlist the help of their veterinarians if they observe sick pigs so a diagnosis can be made. If you don’t have a veterinarian, call the Delaware Department of Agriculture for contact information for a local veterinarian, at 302-698-4500 (during business hours) or 302-233-1480 (after-hours emergency number).
Clinical signs of ASF vary widely, but often include high fever, decreased appetite, and weakness. Skin may be blotchy, reddened, or have blackened lesions. Infected pigs may exhibit diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Pregnant sows may abort. Photos of pigs affected with ASF.
High mortality in a herd is the most significant sign that warrants a call to a veterinarian. Death generally occurs 7 days to 10 days after disease is first noted; however, sudden death can occur in newly exposed herds. Animals that recover can carry and shed the virus for several months.
Veterinarians who visit your farm will need to collect blood samples for testing at an official USDA-network laboratory to confirm or rule out disease.
How is ASF spread?
The virus is easily spread between pigs by direct contact or indirectly from contact with contaminated objects. Research shows the virus can survive in the environment, on shoes, clothing, vehicles, and in feed components. Uncooked or undercooked meat, including refrigerated and frozen products, can carry the virus, making garbage feeding and smuggled food items a major threat. Ticks, flies, and other insects may also spread the virus. Feeding of garbage to pigs is illegal in Delaware.
What to do if you suspect ASF on your farm
You must immediately contact your veterinarian or call DDA at 302-698-4500 during business hours or use our after-hours emergency number at 302-233-1480.
Excellent resources for preventing ASF from infecting the pigs at your farm:
1. Maintaining a high level of on-farm biosecurity is the best protection.
2. Avoid hosting international visitors if possible. If your farm is hosting international visitors you should proactively follow these guidelines.
3. Use extreme caution if traveling abroad. If you or someone who works on your farm is traveling abroad you should proactively follow these travel biosecurity guidelines.