University of Minnesota helps prevent African Swine Fever from reaching U.S.

Pork prices are expected to rise as African Swine Fever sweeps across China. Worried that the U.S. could be next, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is putting a defensive plan in place with the University of Minnesota on the front lines.

The veterinary diagnostic lab at the St. Paul campus is one of 10 labs nationwide that is participating in a ramped up surveillance program, aimed at ensuring the disease doesn’t make it stateside.

As part of a federal network of labs that works with the USDA, the university does testing on behalf of the department.

Jerry Torrison, Director of the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab said that while most of the samples come from Minnesota, it really is a national lab for pigs in particular.

"We’re a resource that’s been training for this and ready for this for a long time, so it’s scary to contemplate what could happen, but that’s why we’re here,” he said.

The university will be testing samples from sick pigs and high risk animals. The surveillance testing is in addition to other preventative measures already in place by the USDA.

“There is no vaccine, there is no way to prevent one pig from giving it to another. There’s no treatment, so it is devastating the industry in China, and it is one step closer to the U.S.,” Torrison said.

While ASF can’t be transmitted to humans, if it makes it to the U.S., experts say it would have catastrophic impacts on farmers and the economy.

“Something devastating like this has ripples all over the globe in all sectors of agriculture,” Torrison said.
“God forbid we get it, there’s hope that we can contain it, that we can do the testing required to limit its spread and eliminate it very quickly.”

For more information on African Swine Fever, click here.