What is African Swine fever?
African Swine Fever (ASF) is a highly contagious viral haemorrhagic disease of wild and domestic pigs. It is a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) listed disease and outbreaks must be reported to the OIE.
The disease is exotic to New Zealand and has never occurred here. ASF is a viral disease that only infects pigs, not people. Aside from pigs, no other livestock, wildlife or pets are affected by ASF. It is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern, however if the disease gets into New Zealand and into our wild pig population it will have dire consequences for pig hunting.
Where is ASF spreading to?
There is currently a major global pandemic of ASF. The outbreak is causing mass mortality of pigs, both from deaths and culling. The outbreak started in Georgia in 2007 and spread around Eastern and Central Europe. In 2018, China reported its first outbreak and since then the virus has been confirmed throughout Asia and in March 2020 was found in Papua New Guinea.
How could ASF get into wild pigs in NZ
The most likely pathway for ASF is the importation of infected meat, particularly meat carried by international passengers or through the mail (60% of pork consumed in NZ is imported.). Biosecurity NZ implements stringent pre-border and border risk mitigation measures to prevent the introduction of ASF. For example, personal consignments of pork are now banned. However illegal importation is still a possible pathway. Another potential pathway is through clothing, footwear and equipment that has been in contact with infected pigs overseas.
Should ASF get to New Zealand the key pathway into our wild pig population is from infected meat getting into lifestyle or para-commercial pig farming through the feeding of uncooked meat scraps, a practice that is banned but still can occur when hobby farmers are unaware of the risks. This then is passed to the wild pig population. Another risk is from illegal transportation and release of pigs into the wild. If an infection of ASF gets into the wild pig population the problem of containment worsens.
What can you do to help prevent an outbreak occurring?
If you are able to travel overseas – particularly to places where ASF is present – be certain you have not come into contact with ASF or sick pigs and stay away from healthy pigs for at least 5 days after travelling. If you have been to areas affected by ASF, make sure you wash or dispose of all clothing, footwear and equipment before you enter New Zealand.
Biosecurity NZ has import health standards to manage the international trade in pork and pork products, including personal consignments and also used equipment associated with animals. Before you buy any pork products, used equipment (such as hunting gear) or other items online from overseas sites, check whether there are any biosecurity import conditions. If you’re unsure, contact Biosecurity NZ before you make your online purchase or do not buy the item.
It is also against the law to feed pigs untreated meat or untreated waste food that may have come into contact with meat. Food waste must be heated to 100C for one hour. This has special significance to those who collect food waste from hotels, pubs, fast food stores, supermarkets etc.
Keep vigilant when out pig hunting.
If ASF were to enter New Zealand the first thing you may see are dead or dying pigs. Other signs of ASF often include high fever, decreased appetite, weakness and general lethargy. Skin may be reddened, blotchy or have blackened lesions.
Infected pigs may also have diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing and difficulty breathing. Abortions can occur in pregnant sows. Death usually occurs 7 – 10 days after a pig becomes infected, however sudden death is also possible.
If you detect a pig with these symptoms or come across any ill or diseased pig, don’t delay, contact your local veterinarian or the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66. MPI have 5 active response agents on call, ready to investigate.
For further information including maps on African Swine Fever then go to these websites: