State veterinarians work to prevent 'nail in the coffin' for ag industry

Dana Ferguson
Forum News Service

MORGAN, Minn. — State and national veterinary and agriculture experts are working to prevent a deadly illness in swine from entering the United States.

A panel of veterinarians and agriculture industry officials on Aug. 7 said the United States needs to beef up detection and security efforts to prevent African swine fever from penetrating the country.

The state’s veterinary diagnostic lab and state veterinarian are taking steps to prepare for the disease should it hit Minnesota’s swine herds, but they’re hoping detection efforts will make their work unneeded.

“We’re trying to get as ready as we can in case this terrible virus hits close to home,” Dr. Jerry Torrison, director of the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, said. “This is the worst thing a pig can get. It ravages the pig. They bleed out of everything.”

African swine fever has decimated China’s swine herds, the experts said, and the elimination of those herds has depressed the demand for soybeans that feed the swine. The disease has been detected in China as well as in parts of Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia, Poland and Russia.

“It is definitely not a China problem any longer,” Michael Nepveux, American Farm Bureau economist, said. “It’s a Southeast Asia problem.”

ASF can’t be spread to humans or to other species.

Aiming to stave off potential spread in the United States, the National Pork Producers Council canceled its Word Pork Expo in Iowa. Mark Schultz, marketing analyst at North Satr Commodities, said the fever’s arrival in the U.S. would pose additional stresses for an industry already struggling with low commodity prices and blocked international markets.

“This would be the nail in the coffin if something of this magnitude were to hit the U.S.,” Schultz said.

The USDA along with other federal agencies has been monitoring pork imports and stepping up efforts to detect raw and frozen pork that could be infected by using trained dogs called the beagle brigade. And in June, state veterinary departments were granted the authority to begin surveilling for the disease as part of routine testing.

Symptoms for African swine fever include a high fever and swelling of the lymph nodes.

Minnesota state veterinary officials on Aug. 7 told farmers in Morgan, Minn., about the dangers posed by African swine fever.