African swine fever, feral hogs, and smuggled meat — LIVE! with Dr. Egan Brockhoff

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Are we anywhere near managing for African swine fever? On this edition of RealAg LIVE!, host Shaun Haney is joined by Dr. Egan Brockhoff of Prairie Swine Health Services, to talk about this devastating disease and what Canada and its trading partners are doing to keep the virus out of North America.

Don’t miss the RealAg LIVE! segment most Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday afternoons at 1 pm Mountain/3 pm Eastern on your favourite social media platform — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Twitch!

SUMMARY

  • African swine fever knowledge curve vs. a year ago: we’re more advanced, at least on the research front. Canada among worldwide network working on the issue, including the VIDO lab.
  • We need to understand the virus better; we’re coordinating with U.S. colleagues and making sure not to duplicate the work.
  • Brockhoff has been working with Chinese pork researchers for the past 10 years on this and other issues
  • The Chinese researchers have shared how the virus moves and spread on commercial farms, farm production models
  • Working on vaccines and other control programs, too
  • How has COVID-19 impacted the ASF situation? It’s given us an opportunity to test our preparedness and our response planning, and that is a silver lining
  • There’s so much smuggled meat moving! Every time you get on a boat or plane, you want snacks. For some people, that’s pork products, and we have to explain to people that it’s not OK when traveling between countries.
  • More work being done at airports and with border services to remind people that travelling into Canada with meat is not allowed
  • Canada and the U.S. have never had a positive case for ASF, but there is more virus circulating in the world now than there ever has been
  • There is more awareness of the risks of how the virus can travel into a new country
  • Back the proverbial truck up: what is ASF? It only impact pigs, it’s a novel virus, it’s been around a long time, and the only one in its family. It affects wild and domestic pigs. It kills 90%+ of every pig it infects, but it doesn’t move easily — it’s not very infectious, but it is very dangerous. It is not a public health or food safety issue.
  • But it is a food security issue — it has killed off dramatic numbers of hogs, significantly impacting protein availability
  • It would also slam borders shut, immediately, if found here even in one animal. Nothing like BSE as a disease, but its market impact would be similar
  • Canada exports 70% of its pork production, so we must be diligent to keep it out of Canada
  • PEDv is less deadly (except to piglets), but much more easily spread. PEDv spreads incredibly quickly/easily, but is less of a killer
  • Why can’t we stamp out ASF? Humans moved it around by moving hogs around without knowing their health status. Once it gets into a wild pig population (wild boar, or feral hogs), they become a reservoir of disease
  • Feral hogs are a huge issue and we need to get that under control, as they are a huge threat (and an invasive species)
  • We need a fortress! Can be carried in soybeans, meat — we need to identify and stop it at all the possible entry points into Canada.
  • There have now been positive cases in wild boar in Eastern Europe, but no commercial farms have been effected, but the whole industry has suffered
  • Wild boar management and eradication is a joint effort with Canada and the U.S. One thing we’ve learned is that if you hunt pigs, you disperse them, instead of actually controlling and means they spread further
  • What are we still not getting through? Being aware of the risk of bringing meat products in to Canada and the U.S. is still a big one.
  • Foot and mouth was brought to Canada via cured meat. Don’t feed meat scraps to backyard pigs. Any pigs! No meat! Especially not from around the world.
  • Do we know how many hogs were destroyed in China and other countries because of ASF? We don’t know.
  • Canada continues to work on zoning agreements. National biosecurity working group will update 2010 standards. Working on helping backyard pig owners manage risks.
  • We’ll be talking about this for a long time. It keeps moving — there are still plenty of pigs to infect. And remember, it’s lethal. There’s no such thing as developing herd immunity for this one.

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