In this file:
· What Happens if African Swine Fever Breaks in the U.S.
· U.S. Homeland Security steps up search for African swine fever vaccine
What Happens if African Swine Fever Breaks in the U.S.
By Betsy Freese, Successful Farming
Agriculture.com - 4/11/2019
The fear is real. African swine fever (ASF) is spreading throughout the world. The deadly virus could reach the U.S. Are we prepared?
Jack Shere, chief veterinary officer for the USDA, runs down a possible bad-case scenario and plan of action.
Let’s say Farmer A has 500 sows and half are dead or dying. His local veterinarian knows that huge mortalities are a telltale sign of a virulent form of ASF. He calls the state veterinarian who immediately quarantines the farm and collects blood samples.
The state veterinarian alerts the USDA, which flies the samples to the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) in Plum Island, New York, the only facility in the U.S. where many infectious foreign animal disease agents are studied.
“We tell our state vets, if it looks like a foreign animal disease, don’t dink around with it at your lab,” says Shere. "If it looks like the real deal, if there are massive die-offs, we fly the samples to FADDL. We don’t mess around.”
A dual set of samples may be tested at a state lab, but “confirmation on any foreign animal disease has to be done at a federal lab,” explains Shere.
If ASF is confirmed after running the test several times at Plum Island, Shere is alerted any hour of the day or night. “They would tell me, Dr. Shere, we have a positive. I would ask, ‘Are you sure? How many times did you run it?’ Once I know it’s positive I go up my chain of command to the administrator, the undersecretary, and the Secretary [of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue].”
Meanwhile, the trace work at Farmer A’s farm has begun. “We have to find out what animals have come on the farm, what’s left the farm, what sales or purchases have gone on. We get a list of those and we start tracing them,” says Shere.
Other state veterinarians are alerted. They make farm visits to see if there are any clinical signs of disease. “It’s shoe leather epidemiology,” says Shere. “If there are signs at another location, they test that farm and quarantine. And on and on.”
As this is going on, the results are reported up the chain and the USDA is mapping and tracking the disease in its computer system. Decisions are being made on what needs to happen next. Shere says he has been told that if ASF breaks in the U.S., “it will be in 22 states in a few days because of the way we move pigs. That’s scary.”
If the disease is deemed widespread, a 72-hour shutdown is put into place. Nothing moves. “Animals in transit will reach their point of destination, or they will be turned around and sent back to their point of origin, depending on the state,” explains Shere.
Three days is all they have, he says, “because if you shut things down longer than that, you start getting into animal welfare issues. We shut down for 72 hours and see if we can get a handle on things.”
The Hardest Part ...
U.S. Homeland Security steps up search for African swine fever vaccine
By United Press International
via Gephardt Daily (UT) - April 10, 2019
EVANSVILLE, Ind., April 10 (UPI) — As African swine fever spreads across Asia, scientists with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have launched an intensive effort to find a vaccine.
The highly contagious virus kills most of the pigs that become infected. With no vaccine or treatment, economists predict devastating consequences should the disease enter the American herd.
“If it comes to the United States, we would have to close our export markets,” said Jim Monroe, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council. “That would be catastrophic.”
Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate teamed up with the U.S. Department of Agriculture shortly after the virus was reported in China to try and create a vaccine.
They’ve made some progress. So far, their task force has identified two potential vaccine candidates, but say it is far from creating an effective and usable vaccine.
“We’ve been working on a vaccine for 50 years,” said Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council. “It’s a very complex virus. Ordinary viruses produce less than 10 proteins. African swine fever has 150. So there’s been a lot of work trying to figure out which of the proteins will create a protective immunity.”
The task force is genetically engineering weakened African swine fever viruses one by one, and testing them on pigs to see if they give the animals immunity, according to a DHS news release. The process is slow, as the scientists are not yet able to keep the genetically engineered cells alive for long.
“We need a better method,” Luis Rodriguez, research leader of the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Foreign Animal Disease Research Unit, who is leading the vaccine development task force, said in a statement.
In the meantime, the USDA is also working with Customs and Border Protection to increase security at the border to stop infected pork products from entering the country.
“We understand the grave concern about the ASF situation overseas,” Greg Ibach, the USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement...