MN Impact: Measuring the risk of African Swine Fever entering the U.S.

June 17, 2020


African swine fever (ASF), a contagious disease in pigs and wild boars, has been spreading across the Caucasus region, Europe, and Asia since 2007 resulting in quarantines, controlled movement, and mandatory culling. China, since its 2018 ASF outbreak, has slaughtered an estimated 1,170,000 animals. 

What has been done

In partnership with the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), University researchers in the College of Veterinary Medicine Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) have helped to track the disease via the Swine Disease Global Surveillance Project and share information relevant to US swine producers and practitioners through ASF Watch. In 2019, they partnered with a team of researchers around the world to measure the risk of ASF entering the U.S. through the smuggling of pork products in air passenger luggage. 


The study shows the risk of ASF arriving in the U.S. has nearly doubled since the ASF epidemic began in 2018, and that five specific airports account for over 90 percent of the potential risk: Newark-NJ, Houston-TX, Los Angeles-CA, J.F. Kennedy-NY, and San Jose-CA. In addition, the probability is high that the ASF virus is already reaching US borders through the smuggling of pork products, but likely because of the work of US Customs and Border Protection, the virus has not entered the country.

If ASF were to enter the U.S., its spread would cause immense economic damage to the pork industry and could lead to billions of dollars in losses for pork producers. The findings of this study can help support decision making for disease surveillance strategies in the U.S. swine industry and transportation hubs. CAHFS is now working with SHIC on a project intended to support control efforts in Vietnam. In addition to a “good neighbor policy,” the project will also generate information that would be useful in enhancing the U.S. preparedness in the event of an ASF epidemic.