One of the major topics of discussion at Pork Congress this week was about a disease that is not and never has been in the United States, African Swine Fever. African Swine Fever originated in Africa and has been around for more than 100 years. The disease is now in Japan, China and it is also spreading in Europe. There is no vaccine to prevent the disease and there is no treatment.

African Swine Fever is 100 percent fatal. Many diseases with a 50 percent mortality rate are considered very virulent. It seems like there are not many diseases with a 100 percent mortality rate like African Swine Fever. I should also point out African Swine Fever does not affect humans. In fact, even if you ate the meat from a pig infected with African Swine Fever it would not affect you in any way.

So, the discussion at Pork Congress was to prevent the disease from moving to North America. Specifically the goal is to figure out possible modes of transmission of African Swine Fever and prevent it. African Swine fever can survive for long periods of time outside of it's living host a pig. It can survive in infected pork meat or even feed. This is one of the reasons that stopping the spread is so difficult.

Veterinarians in a secure lab have been able to simulate the conditions of both the time and temperature changes in a cargo ship as it crosses the ocean from a port in China to the United States. The African swine Fever virus could survived in soybeans from China to the United States. If the soybeans or soybean meal was infected with the virus and fed to pigs the they would die.

Another concern is African Swine Fever could reach the United States in a ham sandwich. Assume you visited family or friends in Japan and they pack you a lunch for the long flight back home. It is in your carry on bag. You forget about it and do not tell the customs agents at the airport about the ham sandwich. If that ham came in contact with a pig in the United States and it was infected with the disease it could start an outbreak of Swine Fever!