What is African Swine Fever and how does Mexico enlist to avoid contagion?

This disease affects wild and farmed pigs and wild boars, causing fever and hemorrhage. It currently affects six Asian countries.

What is African Swine Fever and how does Mexico enlist to avoid contagion?
What is African Swine Fever and how does Mexico enlist to avoid contagion? Image: umash.umn.edu

The Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) is preparing an emergency mega simulation against African Swine Fever (ASF), a highly contagious viral disease that is present in much of Africa and some countries in Europe and Asia.

Although Mexico has been declared free of ASF, whose disease affects domestic and wild pigs, it is necessary to implement measures to prevent its access. Systematic surveillance is the only way to halt their passage into Mexico and thus avoid putting at risk the livestock heritage and public health within the country.

What is ASF and how does it affect humans

The disease is latent in more than 20 countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia, and the day before the first outbreak even reached South Korea, where five pigs have died from the virus.

ASF is an infectious disease of domestic and wild pigs and wild boars of all breeds and ages, caused by a virus with the ability to transmit itself very rapidly. It is characterized by high fever, hemorrhages in the reticuloendothelial system, and high mortality in affected animals.

The plague, however, does not pose any danger to humans, even if they eat contaminated meat. Although the viral disease is highly contagious and fatal for both wild and domestic pigs, this leads to significant economic losses for the pig sector.

What Mexico will do to avoid contagion

The three North American countries have taken steps to strengthen border surveillance, which together accounts for about 14 percent of production.

The emergency mega simulation will take place Sept. 24-26 in Chiapas, Guanajuato, Nuevo León, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Yucatán, and Mexico City, where more than 400 people - academics, researchers, technicians, and inspection officers - will be deployed to work at the field level and even make decisions for a possible quarantine.

All of this will be carried out from Senasica's Sanitary Emergency Operations Center to exercise and evaluate the capacity to respond to biological threats, in conjunction with different agencies and dependencies of the three orders of government. This will generate certainty for pig production, which is very important in Mexico since it is always between the ninth and tenth world producers.

Permanently, Senasica personnel monitor ports, airports, and highways to prevent the entry of pig meat, hunting trophies, skins, or live pigs from Asia and Europe, where the disease is prevalent. In the airports, sanitary mats have been installed at the exit of the airplanes for passengers to clean and disinfect their footwear, as they could be carriers of the disease.

Which countries are affected?

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported that this epidemic affects six Asian countries: Cambodia, China, North Korea, Laos, Mongolia, and Vietnam. It has caused the loss of 10% of the total pig population in China, Vietnam, and Mongolia.

In August, FAO called for tighter border controls to stop the spread of swine fever in Asia, which has killed 5 million pigs in one year.

Since there are no vaccines available on the market, there is a need for action to combat this disease. Countries must monitor their land, sea, and air borders to prevent this epidemic from spreading through contaminated pigs or contaminated meat products.

Threatened countries are invited to put in place effective biosecurity measures to prevent contaminated pigs or contaminated pork products from crossing their borders.