The African swine fever outbreak, currently ravaging China since August 2018 and spreading to other Asian countries, presents a considerable threat to a nation’s economy through the loss of its agricultural resources. Such an impact is currently being felt in China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Japan, North Korea, and most recently South Korea. This infectious disease is affecting not only pig farmers, but also farmers growing crops to feed the pig herds.
The African swine fever virus infects domestic and wild pigs, but it does not infect humans. As it multiplies, the virus causes internal bleeding and results in almost 100% mortality of infected pigs. The U.S. pork industry produces $20 billion of meat annually, according to recent estimates from the U.S. Department of Commerce. If this disease made its way to the U.S., the results could be devastating.
Last year, the U.S Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) intensified vaccine research efforts in collaboration with the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by creating an African Swine Fever Task Force, based out of the S&T Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) in New York state. The Task Force’s primary focus is on developing a vaccine and improving the diagnostics for African swine fever.