The infectious disease outbreak in China could significantly influence global food supply and pricing
By Kate Ayers
The African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China could cause challenges and potentially result in a disruption in food supply and pricing around the world.
China is home to over half of the world’s hog population, a recent Penn Vet Swine Group release said. Nearly 200,000 of the country’s pigs have been affected by this infectious disease.
Managing and understanding the disease is challenging and impacted regions are spread across several thousands of miles, the release said.
Penn Vet’s Swine Group is bringing control initiatives to China to try and slow the movement of ASF and improve disease resilience.
Over the last two years, the group worked with producers in China to improve biosecurity, for example. This initiative includes transitioning the country’s pork industry from small backyard operations to more sophisticated farms with sustainable practices, the release said.
To prevent the movement of infectious diseases like ASF, the industry must employ preventative strategies and use orchestrated expertise, the release added.
“Historically, we’ve thought of swine diseases as an individual farm problem,” Dr. Tom Parson, a Penn Vet associate professor of swine production medicine, said in the release.
“One of the things we’ve done here at Penn Vet is shift that mindset to a community-based approach to mitigating swine disease that recognizes that there are some diseases bigger than an individual farm. We see the possible application of this approach to what’s unfolding in China with the African swine fever.”
Penn Vet’s approach to disease control also recognizes the importance of sustainable housing in stopping the spread of infectious disease, the release said.
“We’re talking about things related to environmental impact, antibiotic resistance, animal welfare and community impact,” Parsons said.
The group works to ensure continued optimal herd health domestically as well with its regional control program.
The program uses geospatial information to determine appropriate biosecurity measures producers can use to protect their farms from disease, the release said.
“I look at the international ASF outbreak as another integral opportunity for us to educate farmers on the importance of having proactive monitoring in place to ultimately provide producer success,” Dr. Meghann Peirdon, a Penn Vet assistant professor of clinical production medicine, said in the release.
While North America, South America and Australia are not yet affected by ASF, the disease poses a huge threat.
“It’s really an interesting epidemiological picture that’s out there right now,” Parsons said.
“It’s starting to become a little bit clearer as more cases are reported, but one of the big questions is whether farms can implement strong enough biosecurity practices to keep this disease out.
“I think we need to ask the questions of whether we are facing the prospect of a global pandemic.”
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