ASF in the western hemisphere: What’s different 40 years later?

Source: Jennifer Shike, Farm Journal’s Pork, 24 August 2021, photo credit:

Since African swine fever (ASF) first struck the Dominican Republic 40 years ago, the global swine industry has grown tremendously. The Dominican Republic, in particular, has changed to more commercial swine production since the virus first presented itself in the early 1980s. 

“My guess is if you did a census on the number of pigs on the island, there’s far more pigs now than there were back then. That presents a challenge. How are you going to effectively get in there to do the epidemiology, depopulation and disposal and then testing to ensure that you’re negative? It’s going to be a struggle for their country,” says Patrick Webb, DVM, acting chief veterinarian for the National Pork Board. 

In addition, the political situation in the island of Hispaniola is less stable now than it was 40 years ago, Webb says. Add to that infrastructure challenges following earthquakes and hurricanes in that part of the world that has left portions of their country in extreme poverty.

The other thing that’s changed significantly is the scope of the swine industry in the U.S., says Bob Thaler, professor and Extension swine specialist at South Dakota State University. 

“We’re producing more hogs and we’re doing it in larger farms with much better biosecurity,” Thaler says. “That’s one of the big problems that China and some of the other Asian countries have – there’s still a lot of backyard production. You can have a small farm, but if they’re positive for a virus, that’s a virus pool that’s a threat to all the other pigs around.”
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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.