The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced additional steps to keep African swine fever (ASF) from entering the United States as the disease spreads internationally

These steps strengthen the protections announced last fall after the deadly swine disease reached China. The goal remains to protect the nation’s swine industry from this disease.

ASF does not affect people, nor is it a food safety issue, according to USDA.

In coordination with the pork industry, USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach outlined enhanced activities to intensify multi-agency efforts toward the prevention of ASF’s entry into the United States.

Those efforts include working with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to train and add 60 additional beagle teams for a total of 179 teams working at key U.S. commercial, sea and air ports.

The beagle teams, known as the Beagle Brigade, are used to search for banned agricultural products entering the United States.

The enhanced activities include coordinating with CBP on the further expansion of arrival screenings at key U.S. commercial sea and air ports—such as checking cargo for illegal pork/pork products and ensuring travelers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection.

In addition, agencies will increase inspections and enforce garbage feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread.

Increased producer awareness and self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures are encouraged.

Working to develop accurate and reliable testing procedures to screen for the virus in grains, feeds and additives and swine oral fluid samples are also among the additional measures recently announced.

Ibach noted USDA will work closely with officials in Canada and Mexico on a North American coordinated approach to ASF defense, response and trade maintenance, as well as continue high level coordination with the U.S. pork industry leadership to assure unified efforts to combat ASF introduction.

“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” Ibach said. “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies and neighboring countries to take these additional steps.”

USDA is also continuing to enhance the agency’s planning to be prepared if the U.S. has to combat ASF.

Along with a wide range of partner groups, USDA is working through several different ASF planning and response exercises, the agency noted. These cover different aspects–from trade implications and policy discussions to the boots-on-the-ground realities of a response.

ASF is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and feral (wild) pigs in all age groups. It is spread by contact with the body fluids of infected animals. It can also be spread by ticks that feed on infected animals.

For more information, visit the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ASF webpage.