Kansas State University experts confront African swine fever in Asia

CEEZAD is involved in the effort to produce mitigation strategies to control the virus and to develop vaccines

Jürgen Richt, DVM, PhD, Regents Distinguished Professor, KBA Eminent Scholar, and director of Kansas State University’s Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), is providing guidance to officials in East Asia on the emerging problem of African swine fever.

African swine fever is a highly contagious disease of domestic pigs and wild boar that causes high fever, respiratory problems, weakness, and stillbirths. Mortality rates among affected animals approach 100 percent.

Dr. Richt was in Asia delivering a series of presentations when an outbreak of African swine fever was reported in China on Aug. 1, with a second outbreak reported on Aug. 16, and a third on Aug. 19.

“Efforts to handle a potential outbreak have not succeeded, so we have to be concerned about the disease spreading across national boundaries,” Richt said. “The first outbreak occurred only a little more than 120 miles north of North Korea.”

The disease presents trade problems for China and other Asian countries, Richt said. China produces nearly half the world’s pork.

Following his conversations with veterinary medicine faculty and students at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, and with members of South Korean media and swine associations, Richt concluded that South Korea is not well prepared to handle the outbreak, though it is working to improve its emergency procedures.

“Dr. Richt provided not only expert knowledge and opinion on the disease and a control, but also disseminated awareness to the public, government and industry through media exposure,” said Young Lyoo, dean of the Konkuk University College of Veterinary Medicine. “His visit showed how important international cooperation is to fight against contagious transboundary disease.”

Stephen Higgs, PhD, FRES, FASTMH, director of Kansas State University’s Biosecurity Research Institute, and Wenjun Ma, BVSc, MVSc, PhD, associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine, also traveled to China to give invited talks at the conference on animal infectious diseases and human health jointly conducted by the Chinese Association of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine and the Chinese Society for Immunology in Harbin, China.

“Our facilities and experts are second to none,” Dr. Higgs said. “We are keeping a close eye on disease outbreaks around the world and maintaining a rigorous research program to defend against economically devastating livestock diseases.”

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