Thailand last week discovered the country’s first official case of African Swine Fever (ASF).

Thailand’s finding is part of the worldwide spread of ASF. The disease has reached numerous countries across Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Pacific in domestic and wild pigs.

ASF reached the Americas late last year when the Dominican Republic and then Haiti reported outbreaks on their shared island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea.

Now, sample testing at a slaughterhouse in the Nakhon Pathom province near Bangkok has shown positive results for the ASF virus. Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has limited the movement of pigs within a five-kilometer radius of the slaughterhouse.

Mass cullings of pigs showing symptoms of ASF were under consideration.

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs whose mortality rate can reach 100 percent. It is not a danger to human health, but it has devastating effects on pig populations and the farming economy.  It has not yet touched the United States and Canada, two of the world’s top pork producers.

The disease has killed hundreds of millions of pigs worldwide, causing pork shortages and price increases.

There is currently no commonly used vaccine against ASF, although the U.S. Department of Agriculture supports some in development.

The virus is highly resistant in the environment, meaning that it can survive on clothes, boots, wheels, and other materials. It can also survive in pork products, such as ham, sausages, or bacon.

Pork prices in Thailand have been up 33 percent since earlier. Pork is a common ingredient in Thai dishes, and grocery stores are often out of stock. The government has suspended pork exports as a short-term way of helping with the shortages.

Thailand’s domestic pig population numbers around 18 million. About one million Thai pigs are exported annually to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

Most likely, Thai farm pig deaths attributed to other viral diseases in the past year included some infected with ASF. Thai agriculture can now carry out their ASF in the open.

Last month, the World Organization for Animal Health (OEI) reported recurrences in China, Russia, Moldova and Ukraine. An area of Italy on Jan. 5 reported a new strain.

“The events observed in the last six months confirm the global threat of ASF, which continues to spread in several regions with serious impacts on pig production systems, animal health, and welfare, as well as on livelihoods, national food security, and international trade,” OIE said in a 2021 year-end report.

“The control of ASF requires sustained commitment and resources. In partnership with the private sector, Veterinary Services need to enhance their capacity to manage the risk of ASF through the implementation of science-based international standards and guidelines in their national control programs,” it continues.

“In particular, ASF surveillance needs to be adapted to the local epidemiological context, taking into account the presence of low virulent strains that could preclude clinical surveillance. Surveillance programs should also cover wild and feral suid populations where they are involved in the disease epidemiology. OIE members should also ensure access to quality laboratory diagnosis for ASF, capable of identifying ASFV in accordance with the standards in the OIE.”

The OIE reports that the epidemiological situation of ASF continued to deteriorate from 2020 to 2022.

Since January 2020, six countries have reported ASF as a first occurrence in the country, while 12 countries reported its spread to new zones. This highlights a continuous spread of the disease in new countries, and in new zones in countries already affected.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)