African Swine Fever (ASF)

Outbreaks of African swine fever (ASF) are surging in China following flooding in southern parts of the country. Farmers typically bury infected pigs, and the rains may have spread the disease via groundwater.

Experts have said the spread of the highly contagious virus, which is fatal to pigs, is unrelenting, with 200 million or more pigs thought to have been culled, slaughtered early or lost to the disease in China.

There are renewed fears about the threat of future disease outbreaks after a strain of swine flu prevalent in China was found to have the potential to spread to humans. A study found that 10% of pig farm workers tested had developed antibodies against a new type of swine flu named G4, suggesting it could jump from pigs to humans. China’s ministry of agriculture and rural affairs said in a statement that the study’s sampling was too small to be representative, and that it lacked adequate evidence to show the G4 virus has become the dominant strain among pigs. There is no evidence yet of human-to-human transmission.

Chinese officials have also announced plans to phase out the slaughter and sale of live poultry at food markets in the country. China introduced a temporary ban on the trade of wild animals and sales in markets earlier this year after the Covid-19 outbreak. UN officials have said there should be a global ban on wildlife or “wet markets” that sell live and dead animals to prevent future pandemics.