Roughly a quarter of the world’s pig population is expected to die of African swine fever, the president of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) warned Thursday.
OIE president Dr. Mark Schipp delivered his dire prediction at a press briefing in Sydney, Australia, according to the Associated Press. If he’s correct, such a blow to the word’s swine population could lead to higher prices of pork and potential shortages of pig products like the blood thinner heparin, which is used to treat humans.
“I don’t think the species will be lost,” Schipp began, “but it’s the biggest threat to the commercial raising of pigs we’ve ever seen, and it’s the biggest threat to any commercial livestock of our generation,” he concluded, reports AP.
African swine fever is “the cause of major economic losses, threatens food security and safe trade, and challenges sustained swine production in affected countries,” agrees a joint study published by OIE and the United Nations earlier this year.
Schipp explained to reporters how the international pork market inflames the danger posed by African swine fever by shipping pork products in various stages of completion across multiple counties. Potentially disease-bearing meat and byproducts are “very hard to trace, through so many countries,” he said, according to AP.
Schipp identified China as a key risk area for the disease, as it hosts half the world’s pigs and has been experiencing African swine fever since 2018, according to a OIE report. Since then, four other countries have seen their first cases of the fever this year: Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong. (RELATED: Hong Kong Protestors Defy No Face Mask Ban On Halloween)
While the 97% of reported African swine fever cases since 2018 have occurred in Europe says the report, the few cases which have occurred in Asia were responsible for 68% (1.7 million) of African swine fever pig deaths globally. This indicates that China may be less than proficient at containing the disease.
Luckily, the fever poses no health risk to humans, according to the OIE. Unfortunately, it also reports there is no vaccine at this time. Farmers can spot African swine fever amongst their pigs by looking for hemorrhaging of the skin, weight loss and respiratory problems.