Be prepared for African swine fever

(Journal stock photo.)

As African swine fever continues to spread throughout Asia and parts of Europe, we see firsthand the devastation it causes to swine populations. The United States remains ASF free but, in 2021, ASF was detected in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. These are the closest detections to the U.S. in decades and pose an increased threat to the U.S. swine herd. The U.S. has remained on high alert and has aggressively taken steps to protect not only U.S. pigs but the rural communities that support the swine industry’s half a million jobs.

We can’t do it alone, and we applaud the swine industry for their proactive efforts to increase biosecurity, preparedness, and surveillance for this costly disease. Just as we successfully worked together to respond to diseases like Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, pseudorabies, and swine influenza virus, I know that together we can face the threat of ASF. We all must remain vigilant and keep ASF out of the U.S.

For our part, we have strong safeguards in place, including: a surveillance program to rapidly detect ASF and serve as an early warning system; increased testing capabilities at our National Animal Health Laboratory Network to handle large volumes of samples if needed; enhanced work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry targeting cargo, passengers, and products from ASF-affected countries; added import restrictions on pork and pork products from ASF-affected countries; and increased detector dog teams to sniff out illegal products at key U.S. commercial sea and airports.

We also continue to support industry-led efforts to protect the domestic swine herd from ASF, such as the U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan program pilot, which aims to prevent ASF through biosecurity, traceability, and surveillance initiatives.

All of these safeguards are not enough. We still need your help. On-farm biosecurity matters all day, every day, and ALL the time. We can’t afford to take any chances with this disease. I implore everyone who works with pigs to know the signs and symptoms of ASF. If you suspect an illness in your pigs, report it immediately to your veterinarian or call 1-866-536-7593. Do not wait to report your suspicions. Rapid response is crucial during a foreign animal disease detection.

Use and share the resources on USDA’s Protect Our Pigs website at, which includes information and materials to help spread the word about ASF awareness. Together, we can all help keep ASF out of the U.S.

Dr. Jack Shere, DVM, is associate administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.