A DISEASE that is estimated to have wiped out more than a million pigs across the globe could pose a significant threat to the Australian pork industry.
In January, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources officers seized a range of meat products from travellers coming into Australia, and through international mail, and found six of the 152 samples were contaminated with the devastating African swine fever.
One of the guest speakers at the recent SA pig industry day, Rivalea veterinarian Regina Fogarty said while African swine fever only affected pigs, not other animals, it was a particularly persistent disease.
The virus is very resistant to cleaning and remains infective on-farm in both effluent and blood.
"If you had to eradicate African swine fever from your herd, it's hard because it's very resistant," she said.
"It's a very difficult disease to manage as it can survive in meat and other pig products."
African swine fever is so persistent it can survive freezing indefinitely. It also survives on cured products for up to 12 months and up to 30 days in pig pens.
While cooking can kill it, this only works at higher than 70 degrees Celsius and for longer than 30 minutes.
Dr Fogarty said another problem with African swine fever was that so much was unknown about it, particularly how ticks could help it spread, as well as biting flies.
Feral pigs played a major role in its spread, but Dr Fogarty said a problem with ferals was that a lot of the time, people did not know how high populations were and how big an issue they faced.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, because we still don't know the answers to a lot of questions," she said.
"But we know the global situation is getting worse. That's why we need to keep on the federal government's back, to make sure biosecurity remains a high priority."
There have been African swine fever outbreaks in eastern Europe and Russia and it is widespread in China.
"Unfortunately, it's likely to spread more widely from China and no one thinks it's going to stop, particularly as China has 15 countries in which it shares a land border," Dr Fogarty said.
As well as being persistent, African swine fever was also a particularly nasty disease for pig deaths, with haemorrhaging from the nose, mouth or anus.
"It's a disease that gets into a pig shed slowly, and because it spreads slowly, it's hard to pick up," Dr Fogarty said.
"But it takes off once a shed gets contaminated."
Of the pigs that get sick, between 25 per cent and 100pc die. Indicators of African swine fever include fever, loss of appetite, inactivity and reddening of the skin on the chest, abdomen, tails and legs.
"As there's no treatment or vaccine, we really need to think, as farmers, how to keep it out," Dr Fogarty said.
"It's more critical than ever before to make sure you're following a quarantine plan and not letting international visitors on-farm.
"If you've got a by-product feeding program, you need to look into any biosecurity risks."