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ASFV: How Do You Get Swine Fever, Anyway?


Those who work in farms or food processing environments must be concerned about the spread of disease, not just to workers and consumers, but also among livestock. When disease spreads among animals raised for consumption, the outcomes can be disastrous for herds and costly for business owners. Being aware of the potential risks and taking steps to prevent disease from affecting herds in the first place is the best way to keep animals healthy and protect your investments. 

What is swine fever?

African swine fever virus, also known simply as swine fever, is a viral disease that affects pigs. Once present in one animal, it can quickly spread to others in the herd. The disease is found in many African countries, and outbreaks have also been reported in other parts of the world. After it has been contracted, the virus causes severe illness and symptoms, such as fever, weakness, decreased appetite, and skin lesions. Although the death rate among affected animals is high, even those that survive present further risk to other animals because they carry the virus for several more months. So far, there have been no cases of swine flu reported in the United States, and both government agencies and farmers are motivated to keep it that way.

How do you get swine fever?

Although you as a human can’t get African swine fever, if you’re a pig farmer or work in the livestock processing industry, it is something you should be concerned about. As the name suggests, only pigs can get swine fever, including wild boars, warthogs, and both wild and domesticated pigs. The disease is often introduced when animals are fed contaminated pork that hasn’t been properly cooked. Insects such as ticks and flies can also spread the disease between farms.


Once one animal is infected, others get the virus through direct contact with each other or contact with body fluids or tissues. The virus can also be spread through indirect methods, such as contact with contaminated objects. On a farm this might include clothing, boots, vehicles, or equipment. Fortunately, the USDA states that swine flu is not a food safety issue, but it is a problem for livestock growers, which is why it’s important to take measures to prevent it from entering domestic farms.

What happens when swine fever is detected?

When a case of swine fever is detected, extreme measures are often taken to prevent the potentially devastating effects of it spreading. Banning the export of pork products is one example of a reaction that can have a significant impact on a country’s economy. At the farm level, herds must be strictly controlled to prevent the spread of the virus.

How can you reduce the spread of swine fever?

Because the disease is primarily introduced through food, it’s important not to feed raw or undercooked pork products to pigs. Wild pigs are also potential carriers of the disease, so keep herds isolated from wild populations, ideally indoors when possible. If workers or visitors have come into contact with wild pigs or swine on other farms, make sure they understand how the disease is spread and how they might contribute to passing it on to animals on the farm. If you suspect that an animal is ill, isolate it and contact a veterinarian. When introducing new pigs to the herd, keep them isolated for a period of time to make sure they are not ill.

Biosecurity is Key

Now that you know the answer to the question “how do you get swine fever?,” the next step is to take action to prevent its spread. According to the USDA, taking a preventive approach to biosecurity is critical for keeping these types of diseases at bay. It is also far more cost-effective than reacting to a case of swine fever. Disinfecting equipment and vehicles as they enter the farm will help reduce the chances of introducing unwanted disease to your livestock. Ensuring that workers and anybody else who enters the farm has not been in contact with potentially affected animals is a good step, in addition to disinfecting footwear and clothing before entering the farm. Having a good biosecurity plan in place and ensuring that all workers are properly trained will help prevent the spread of swine flu and other diseases that are transmitted between animals.

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