The Chinese government has been working for more than three years to contain an outbreak of African swine fever in its hog herd. Producers in China initially tried to contain its spread through early detection, culling the population, and bio-security.
The government stepped in to create vaccines. However, there are non-governmental vaccines, too. These have created a long-term problem for hog production in China and maybe for the United States.
University of Illinois Veterinarian Jim Lowe is an infectious disease specialist that works with the hog industry around the planet. “Some vaccines have been produced in China which are illegal, or illicit, they’ve not been sanctioned by the government, that are called knockouts. So, they did some fancy gene jockeying, the magic of gene jockeying, the knocked out these genes, and then they put them in pigs as a vaccine,” says Lowe.
The bigger issue, Lowe says, is the illicit vaccines don’t provide much protection from the virus, and lesson the government’s ability to detect the virus. “One, it doesn’t induce very good immunity as it appears. And number two, it’s not nearly as virulent, but is still virulent. So, it spreads slower, doesn’t produce as high of fever. And so, it’s basically blown-up the entire control strategy they created, it’s just not made it very effective. They relied on a high fever to identify a sick pig, now those pigs don’t have that,” according to Lowe.
He says rumors suggests the viruses are spreading widely, and not inflicting the damage seen when ASF was first discovered in China, but will dampen China’s recovery from ASF.