The minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, has announced the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape.

This announcement follows investigations and a post-mortem performed by departmental veterinary services on 13 April 2020 in the Amathole District Municipality, whereby five villages in the Mnquma Local Municipality were visited after the death of 50 pigs in the area.

Click here for disease control guidelines that will help you to protect your farm from ASF.

The minister notes that this is the first time that an outbreak of AFS has been recorded in this province. In the past three years, outbreaks of ASF outside of the ASF-controlled area occurred in the Free State, North West, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces. It has not yet been determined whether this outbreak in the Eastern Cape is linked to the outbreaks in other provinces.

“This outbreak occurred in a communal setting, which makes movement control and biosecurity between the respective pig herds difficult. Control measures currently in place include that all infected pigs be kept as far as possible from uninfected pigs and be housed alone to avoid contact with other pigs in the area and to limit the spread of the disease,” said minister Didiza.

The area where the outbreak occurred has been quarantined; no pigs are allowed to move into, through or out of the area. Follow-up investigations by provincial veterinary services are underway to determine the extent of the outbreak.

Quick facts about ASF:

  • It kills almost all infected pigs.
  • Common clinical signs include bleeding on the skin and difficulty breathing.
  • There is no vaccine for ASF.
  • There is no treatment for affected pigs.
  • Prevention is the only effective course of action.

The disease is transmitted to pigs through contact with infected wild or domestic pigs and infected soft ticks, as well as through contact with people, vehicles, equipment or shoes, and eating contaminated food waste, feed, or garbage. 

Awareness campaigns have been initiated to inform pig keepers in the affected area on how the disease is spread and how they can protect their pigs from the virus.

Recommendations for pig owners and keepers

  • Enclose your pigs to prevent contact with pigs of unknown health status, including wild pigs and warthogs.
  • Only buy healthy pigs from a reliable source.
  • It is preferable to not feed kitchen waste, but if no other option is available, make sure to remove all meats and cook the kitchen waste thoroughly.
  • Do not to allow visitors to have contact with your pigs.
  • Before having contact with pigs, wash hands and only use clean clothes, shoes, equipment and vehicles that have not been in contact with other pigs.

Consumption of pork is safe

The minister would like to assure the public that ASF does not affect humans and the consumption of pork is safe. However, any meat and products from affected pigs can be a source of infection to other pigs. Farmers should therefore ensure that if any swill (kitchen waste) is fed to pigs, it is pre-cooked for at least an hour. This will ensure the inactivation of the ASF virus, as well as other diseases of concern.

If pigs from unaffected commercial pig farms in the area are moved to the abattoir for slaughter, they must be accompanied by health attestations to declare that the herds of origin have not shown any signs indicative of ASF and have not had higher than normal pig deaths. Commercial piggeries are encouraged to comply with compartmentalization biosecurity standards to protect their piggeries from infection.

Farmers and pig keepers are requested to be vigilant and to report any sudden illness and deaths in their pigs to the local state veterinary office immediately so that swift action can be initiated to prevent the spread of this disease. – Press release, Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development