Correct Understanding of African Swine Fever


       Lately, there have been outbreaks of African swine fever in China. Pigs in Liaoning, Henan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces were infected sporadically. It caused a large number of pigs died of disease or cull. This disease was first identified in different African countries in 2007. Subsequently, it has disseminated to Europe. Recently, it has become epidemic in Russia, Eastern Europe and China. Indeed, African swine fever is listed as a notifiable disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). So far, there is no vaccine to protect pigs from being infected. Therefore, many countries and regions have adopted sanitary measures in those infected farms, including culling, harmless treatment, disinfection, etc., in order to prevent epidemic from spreading.


What is African Swine Fever?

       African swine fever is an acute, malignant infectious disease caused by African swine fever virus (ASFV). It affects all swine breeds and ages, including of domestic and wild pigs. The morbidity and mortality rates of pigs with acute infection are 100%. The virus exhibits a strong resistance to alkaline and acid so it can survive for an extended period of time (11 days in faeces, 1 month in poorly sanitised pig pens, 100 days in chilled meat and 1,000 days in frozen meat). Nevertheless, it is not heat tolerant and is easily destroyed by continuously heating at 55 for 30 minutes or at 60 for 10 minutes.


       The transmission routes of African swine fever can be through food waste, direct contact with infected pigs or contaminants (e.g. secretions and excreta), bite of virus-infected arthropods (e.g. ticks), vehicles, people and so on. The symptoms of diseased pigs include of high fever, purplish blotches on skin, internal bleeding and others.


Effects on Human Health

       African swine fever is not a zoonotic disease. The virus does not affect neither humans nor other animal species. It only infects wild boars and domestic pigs as its natural host. Current studies show that it is a typical virus to infect pigs and unlikely to become infectious to humans due to no significant genetic mutation at present stage. Thus, it does not pose a threat to human health and food safety.


What are the existing laws, regulations and notification mechanism for ensuring the food safety of fresh and live food products?

  • In accordance with the regulations and examination system on the import of fresh and live food products of Macao, such products must be declared and accepted compulsory inspection and quarantine during importation. The food importers need to submit an official health certificate issued by the exporting country, and other documents related to sanitary and quarantine measures for application review. If any problem is found in a product during import inspection, the Municipal Affairs Bureau (aka IAM) will immediately notify the concerned authorities through the cooperation and coordination mechanism. The suspicious product will be temporarily suspended the import application process until the risk is removed.
  • The concerned regulatory authorities in China have established prevention and control measures to ensure a stable and safe supply of live pigs for Macao. The IAM will continuously keep a close eye on the development of African swine fever in China and bidirectionally communicate with China relevant competent authorities so as to fulfil its role as a gatekeeper in epidemic prevention. 

Is it still safe to eat pork now?

       Though African swine fever cannot be transmitted to humans and its virus can be destroyed by heat, consumers have to cook the pork thoroughly to make sure that the virus is killed at high temperatures. Do not buy the unknown sources of pork from unlicensed hawkers. Do not smuggle any meat into Macau without authorities' permission. Always wash our hands thoroughly after handling raw pork. Raw pork and other ready-to-eat foods must be handled and stored separately. Any wounds on hands should be properly covered with waterproof bandages before handling raw pork.


       Furthermore, the food industry has the responsibility to ensure that the pork for sale is suitable for human consumption and in compliance with the laws and regulations of Macao. They should purchase their goods from reliable suppliers. Pay attention to government announcements and the latest situation of the epidemic so as to take corresponding actions as necessary.




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