African swine fever and swine flu are not the same

There is still confusion about the names, African swine fever (ASF) (Afrika varkpes in Afrikaans), and swine flu/influenza (varkgriep in Afrikaans).

Some media reports referred to the ASF outbreak in the Eastern Cape two weeks ago incorrectly as “swine flu”.

“African Swine Fever (ASF) only occurs in domestic pigs and some wild pig breeds e.g. warthogs. It is caused by a DNA virus, is very stable and does not affect humans at all. In South Africa the reservoir of ASF infection is soft ticks (tampans), which reside in warthog burrows,” says Dr Peter Evans, responsible for consumer protection at the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO).

“Swine Flu is caused by an RNA virus and can affect many different mammals, birds and humans. Classical swine influenza in pigs is caused by a subtype of the influenza virus called H1N1 (a member of the A type influenza viruses). There is no evidence that swine influenza (SI) occurs or has occurred in pigs in South Africa.

“Investigation of the H1N1(09) outbreak in humans in Mexico and the USA in 2009, determined that the virus had some pig proteins, but this was mostly a human genotype. Although this outbreak was sensationalised as “swine flu” the evidence was that it was a human variant and had very little to do with pigs,” Dr Evans says.

He emphasises that swine influenza does not spread via meat. In countries that have influenza no abattoir workers or pork processors have ever tested positive for antibodies. “Pork is safe,” he adds.

“South Africa’s pork industry has a proud record of high herd health status and we are more than happy to explain all the preventative and operational biosecurity measures maintained by South African pork producers. These protocols safeguard consumers against risk and ensure food safety,” Dr Evans says.

The South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO) coordinates industry interventions and collaboratively manages risks in the value chain to enable the sustainability and profitability of pork producers in South Africa.