ASF update: Swine Disease Global Surveillance bi-monthly report

This report was published by the Swine Health Information Center and prepared by the University of Minnesota.

Epidemiological Situation


On September 14th, the OIE official report of the 1st ASF case in Belgium was released, confirming our previous report. On Saturday, 15th, the Federal Agriculture minister confirmed three new cases in the same area of the initial report, identified in wild boars found dead in the city of Etalle (Luxembourg province), near the border with France.

On Friday evening, a multisectoral meeting took place in Belgium, where the farming, meat and animal feed sectors asked for priority measures against the spread of African Swine Fever to be in place. In the joint statement coming from that meeting, they draw up five possible critical needs/measures to mitigate the disease spreading: a European plan to define and maintain the affected zone; the creation of a committee dedicated to the export of meat and pork products; a regulated slaughtering and butchering method for pigs in the area which is under tight surveillance; a realistic and feasible plan to reduce the boar population in the country; and finally the creation of a crisis communication committee.

Arrangements are being done to ban the movement, hunting and feeding of wild boars in the region to control the spread of the disease by human interaction. An investigation and monitoring program is being implemented, with the support of European experts.


With the reporting of two new outbreaks today (September 14th), unofficially, there have been 21 ASF outbreaks reported in China. The last two reported outbreaks included (a) 16 hogs with sudden death in the Inner Mongolian Province, and (b) a farm in Henan Province, with 148 infected pigs and 43% fatality rate. Officially, however, the OIE WAHIS platform still reports only 19 outbreaks in six provinces (Figures 1 and 2). Although the cause of ASF introduction into China remains unclear, in March, 2018, FAO alerted for the risk of introduction of ASF into the country by illegal introduction of animals or food. There are also concerns that, similarly to what has been reported in Europe, wild boars may play a role in the spread of the disease.

Control Activities

Approximately 40,500 pigs have been culled since the beginning of the epidemic, with mortality rates that varied between 0 and 23.17% (Figure 1). The Chinese government reported checking pigs in thousands of sites, which may have resulted in the increase of the identification of new outbreaks. In an attempt to contain the spread of the disease, all transport of live animals from infected provinces is restricted, feed policy is being adjusted to the current scenario, and the logistics of the industry and the Chinese market are being reviewed. On September 13th, the use of food waste and pig blood as feed for pigs in ASF-infected and neighboring provinces was banned. Also, testing pig feed to ASF will be required, and positive samples will trigger destruction of the whole batch of feed.

Disease Impact

China is considering to import meat from other markets, including the European Union, that in 2017 faced an intense decline in pork exports. US hog market is also currently facing a low price market, however with expansion in number of sows and pork produced. International trade is at risk once ASF is spreading rapidly into consolidated markets like Europe and China, and concerns are growing around the globe.


Figure 1: Summary of outbreaks of African Swine Fever in China. Nineteen outbreaks were reported to OIE, in 6 provinces: Lianoning, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Heilongjiang (Source: OIE – WAHIS).


Figure 2: Chinese provinces with reported ASF outbreaks (Lianoning, Henan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Heilongjiang). The intensity of the green shade depicts the number of culled animals, with the Province of Liaoning (darkest green) showing the highest cull rate.



Passing of Dr. Mike Murtaugh, colleague and friend

Tribute from the National Hog Farmer.

Michael MurtaughThe swine industry is grieving today after the loss of one its most profound scientists in PRRS research. Mike Murtaugh, a professor of virology and immunology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, passed away Tuesday morning, following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Murtaugh was also recognized today as the 2018 Allen D. Leman Swine Conference recipient of the Pijoan Lecture for his 30-year research into the PRRS virus and how his work on such a devastating disease has become a model for advancing progress in the industry.

“The Pijoan lectureship is not my honor and this is not my talk,” says Michael Rahe, a 2017 graduate under Murtaugh who filled in to give the keynote lecture at the Leman conference. “That honor and this talk belong to a man I have the highest regard for, my former adviser Dr. Mike Murtaugh.”

Murtaugh, who held a doctorate in entomology from Ohio State University, based his research program at the University of Minnesota on

the molecular mechanisms of disease resistance in pigs. His contributions to science has made many significant advances in fundamental porcine immunobiology related to immune protection and immunomodulation; porcine antiviral immunity, including lymphocyte memory and mechanisms of protection; and molecular virology, evolution and discovery sciences to elucidate viral origins and evolution as a means to understand genetic diversity and immunological challenges.

“Mike Murtaugh is a scientist and not a veterinarian. His goal as a faculty member has always been to better understand the mechanisms of disease resistance in swine,” Rahe says. “The tools which Mike has used toward PRRS are molecular biology and immunology. He has used molecular biology to understand the PRRS virus pathogen, since you must first know the pathogen to assess the immune response and then immunology to assess the quality of immune response.”

Murtaugh significantly advanced the field of knowledge of PRRS, PCV2 and PED viruses’ evolution, pathogenesis and immunity, and his work will continue to impact the U.S. and global swine industries.

“Getting out of the comfortable confinements of the academic laboratory was essential for this and without the support of students, colleagues, veterinarians and producers nothing … would have been accomplished,” Rahe says. “Part of Mike’s legacy will be the next generation of scientifically-trained swine health specialists.”

The Pijoan lecture is named in honor of Carlos Pijoan for his work in the area of swine respiratory disease and the influence of swine production systems on the dynamics of microorganism, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, Haemophilus parasuis, Streptocococcus suis and Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. In 1982, he joined the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, where he was the founder and director of the Swine Disease Eradication Center and a professor in the Veterinary Population Medicine department. Pijoan passed away Jan. 9, 2007, after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

African Swine Fever: 2 podcasts available

We are coming back with 2 new podcasts on African Swine Fever today.

First podcast on African Swine Fever

In this first of a two part episode of At The Meeting Honoring Dr. Bob Morrison, we share a conversation on African Swine Fever or ASF.

Dr. Montse Torremorell joins Dr. Tom Wetzel and Dr. Gordon Spronk with special guest Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council, to talk about ASF and how it is the most feared disease in pigs in the world.

Take away:

  1. Having ASF in the United States would impact trade
  2. ASF is a hardy virus (hard to eradicate and lives in extreme conditions), and
  3. there is no vaccine.

The U.S. pork industry is taking action now by making sure laboratory capacity is up to date, looking at identifying and categorizing higher risk transmission paths plus their mitigation plans, and improving the approach to surveillance and risk planning and implementation.

Second podcast on African Swine Fever

In this second of a two part episode of At The Meeting Honoring Dr. Bob Morrison, we continue our conversation on African Swine Fever or ASF. Dr. Montse Torremorell joins Dr. Tom Wetzel and Dr. Gordon Spronk with special guest Brad Heron, Director of Operations of Cherkizovo (pronounced “Chair-Kee-Zi-Vo”) in Russia. Brad offers a personal, boots on the ground perspective on ASF.

Brad shares several stories of how ASF was discovered and handled on the Russian farms he helps run. The early disease indicators were confusing due to other animal diseases also running its course so ASF was not discovered as early as they had thought they would.

Brad highlights what happened to the operations when ASF was discovered, actions they had to take, and the Russian regulations they had to work with requiring depopulations within a five mile radius. He also summarizes the biosecurity changes they made to defend against ASF, including transportation tracking, multiple testing points through out the operations, and physical farm and people security improvements.

The number one key take away from Brad: Have good testing; if you don’t test, you don’t have the ability discover outbreaks.

Remember that this afternoon a special session will be held at the Leman Conference regarding African Swine Fever.

Science Page: Salmonella monophasic harboring plasmid mediated resistance genes to enrofloxacin and ceftiofur is expanding in swine in the Midwest

This is our Friday rubric: every week a new Science Page from the Bob Morrison’s Swine Health Monitoring Project. The previous editions of the science page are available on our website.

This week, we are sharing a report by Dr. Elnekave and the STEMMA lab regarding a multiresistant clad of Salmonella isolated in the Midwest.

Key Points:

  • A genetically distinct clade of Salmonella 4,[5],12:i:- (also referred to as S. monophasic), harboring multiple antimicrobial resistance genes (including to ampicillin,streptomycin, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines) became the predominant S. monophasic type in swine in the U.S. during 2014-2016.
  • Phenotypic resistance to enrofloxacin (fluoroquinolone) and ceftiofur (3rd generation cephalosporin) was present in a proportion these isolates, and whole genome sequencing revealed the presence of the plasmid-mediated genes.
  • These plasmid-mediated resistance genes could potentially transfer horizontally to other microorganisms and augment the problem of antimicrobial resistance to these critically important antibiotics.

S. monophasic emerged globally in the recent years and pig products have been identified as a source in some foodborne outbreaks. The prevalence of S. monophasic, and phenotypic resistance (minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) above the cut-off value for this bacteria) to enrofloxacin increased in swine clinical samples in the Midwest during 2006 and 2016.

During this period, injectable enrofloxacin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of swine respiratory disease and colibacillosis in piglets (in 2008 and 2014, respectively); therefore, the objective of the study was to characterize the S. monophasic in swine in the U.S Midwest.

Salmonella genotypic profile
Maximum likelihood tree of S. monophasic collected in the U.S. and Europe during 1991-2016. Tip colors indicate of the period of sample collection: 1991-2009 (red), 2010-2013 (green), 2014-2016 (turquoise) and not available (n.a.; purple). The location of samples collection is indicated by the background color: Europe (red), U.S. (blue) and not available (green). ASSUT= presence of resistance genes against ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfonamides, and tetracyclines. qnr genes – conferring resistance to quinolones.

We used whole genome sequencing to compare S. monophasic isolates collected from livestock in the Midwest with isolates collected from different sources in the U.S. and Europe. We then determined the antimicrobial resistance genotypes and presence of other virulence factors that could help to explain the emergence of this variant.

Salmonella monophasic formed two main genetic clades regardless of source and geographical origin (Figure 1). Most (84%) isolates recovered in the U.S. during 2014-2016, including 50 isolates (out of 51) originating mainly from swine in the Midwest, were part of an emerging clade genotypically resistant to ampicillin, streptomycin, sulphonamides and tetracyclines. In the Midwest samples, phenotypic resistance to enrofloxacin (11 out of 50; 22%) and ceftiofur (9 out of 50; 18%) was found in conjunction with plasmid-mediated resistance genes. This is of particular concern because fluoroquinolones and 3rd generation cephalosporins are often used to treat invasive Salmonella infections in people. Furthermore, because the genes were plasmid borne there is greater likelihood for horizontal transfer of these genes to other bacterial strains.

African Swine Fever confirmed in Belgium: a Swine Disease Global Surveillance Report

African Swine Fever (ASF) has been confirmed in Belgium.

This report was published by the Swine Health Information Center and prepared by the University of Minnesota.

Although it has not been officially reported to the OIE yet, preliminary reports indicate that ASF has been confirmed in two wild boars near the southern village of Étalle, in the province of Luxembourg, which is located 8 miles (12 km) from the border with France and 11 miles (17 km) from Luxembourg. It appears to have jumped a considerable distance from previously affected countries, about 300 miles (500 km) from the border with the Czech Republic, 500 miles from Hungary, and 750 miles (1,200 km) from the border with Romania (approximate distances). The Belgian authorities report they are working to prevent the possible spread of the disease among wild boar and onto pig farms.

In 2017, Belgium exported $1.4 billion of pork, making it the eighth largest pork exporter by country, and it is unclear how trade within the European Union will be affected. Following the report, the French Minister of Agriculture called for “an adequate response given the considerable economic interests at stake for the French agri-food chain” and warned about the impact of the Belgian outbreak, calling on officials to stop the disease from spreading across the border.

ASF Belgium map 1
Figure 1: Europe. In red, village of Étalle, Belgium, location of the latest report of African Swine Fever.

ASF has been spreading through Eastern Europe, mostly associated with transmission through wild boars, a population that has been growing in Europe over the last decade.This new outbreak represents the expansion of the disease, for the first time during the current pandemic, into Western Europe (Figure 1). This is also the first time ASF has been diagnosed in Belgium since 1985, when 12 farms were infected and 60 farms (34,041 animals) were eliminated. A recent modeling exercise on the potential spread of ASF in Belgium suggested that, in most of the cases, the disease would be controlled before any spread; however, if ASF virus was introduced into commercial farms, the median number of infected farms was predicted to be 6 (see Simons et al at the References section).

This new outbreak may represent a new change in the epidemiologic situation of ASF worldwide, suggesting that the disease may have reached pandemic proportions. “Pandemic” is a term that refers to “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area”, which seems appropriate in this case, considering ASF expansion across Europe, and over considerable distances in China over the last year, in addition to the sustained occurrence of outbreaks in Africa and Russia.

ASF Beglium map 2
Figure 2: Europe. In red, Belgium, location of the latest report of African Swine Fever. In orange, European Countries that have reported ASF in this current pandemic of the disease.