Keeping African swine fever out of Australia

In light of the changing distribution of African swine fever (ASF) in China and parts of Europe the department has undertaken additional activities to ensure that its biosecurity measures continue to protect Australia from this disease. ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs. The disease has generally been present in countries of sub-Saharan Africa, and has more recently been reported in Eastern Europe (including the Ukraine and Russia). In August 2018, it was reported for the first time in China, and in September 2018 it was detected in wild boar in western Europe (Belgium) for the first time. In January 2019 Mongolia also first reported ASF. The department is responding actively to this situation. ASF has never occurred here and it is crucial that Australia remains free from the disease.

An outbreak of ASF in Australia would have significant impacts on pig production and health. In addition, our access to economically important international markets would be compromised. It would also be very difficult and costly to eradicate.

Humans are not susceptible to ASF

We all have a role in preventing exotic diseases, like ASF, arriving in Australia - even if we don’t own or work around farm animals.

What you can do to prevent an outbreak

Passengers arriving in Australia

People visiting or returning to Australia need to pay particular attention to biosecurity requirements.  This includes travelling from countries where ASF may be present. Before you travel, check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.

You must declare on your Incoming Passenger Card any food and animal products, and other risk items. This includes footwear and equipment that has been in contact with animals or worn in a rural area. The best thing to do is not bring food with you, and make sure your items are clean before you pack your bags.

Watch our incoming passenger video: Don’t be sorry - just declare it.

(Available in English, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, Cantonese, French, Arabic and Korean).

Online purchases

Exotic pests and diseases are not something that may be front of mind when buying goods online but you need to consider where your goods are coming from, and whether they will meet our biosecurity conditions when they arrive at Australia’s international mail facility.

Before you make your purchase, check what can and cannot be mailed to Australia.

Many items may seem harmless but there are animal diseases including ASF that can survive for long periods in them, making it possible for diseases to spread to new areas.

Pig owners

Regardless of whether you are a large scale pig producer or you have a pet pig in your backyard, you need to keep your animals healthy, and this includes providing them with good food that is safe. 

Pigs must not be fed meat or any other mammalian), food containing meat or food which has been in contact with meat  – unless specifically excluded under the National Prohibited Pig Feed Definition. This is known as swill feeding, and it is prohibited in Australia because of its potential to introduce serious animal diseases like ASF and foot-and-mouth disease. Swill feeding is believed to have contributed to the international spread of ASF.

There are a number of other practices pig owners and producers should implement to protect their animals. The National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Pork Production contains information and specific procedures for all pig farmers to follow to help reduce the risk of disease entering a property, spreading through livestock and/or being passed to surrounding livestock operations.

Producers are urged to consider their biosecurity arrangements, including the risks from overseas visitors and workers returning from overseas. Producers should follow accepted good biosecurity practices (including entry controls and protocols, hygiene requirements, and visitor logs) and review those covering stock transport. It is also timely to undertake additional staff training to ensure a good understanding of biosecurity arrangements.

If you see signs of disease consistent with ASF in domestic or feral pigs, contact your veterinarian and/or phone the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately.  This will put you in touch with your state or territory animal health authority.  Suspect cases of African swine fever must be reported to animal health authorities.

If you would like further guidance about caring for your pigs, contact the national peak body for pigs – Australian Pork Limited on 1800 789 099.


Vets who treat pigs should familiarise themselves with the clinical signs of ASF and other emergency animal diseases.

You should ensure that you and your pig-owning clients are aware of and comply with swill feeding legislation.

Early detection and laboratory confirmation is critical for a rapid and effective response. You have an important role to play in the detection of an incursion. Report unusual cases of disease to state or territory government veterinarians directly or through the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888 immediately.

Action by biosecurity authorities

Biosecurity authorities continue to monitor the global ASF situation.

Protecting Australia’s agricultural industries is our priority.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for biosecurity at our international borders. We screen passengers, mail and cargo for potential pest and disease risks. We work in partnership with the states and territories, industry and the community to manage our biosecurity system. 

Australia has science-based import conditions that manage the biosecurity risks associated with imported goods. To manage ASF risks, imported pig meat must either be retorted to specific requirements, or cured under very specific conditions to inactivate ASF virus, or sourced from ASF-free countries or zones, which have been approved by the department. Several commodities including personal consignments of jerky and biltong and rawhide pet chews are either no longer allowed to be imported, or have had additional import conditions applied.

In addition, increased border activities included testing a sample of pork products seized at international airports and mail processing centres over a two week period in December 2018 for ASF virus.

The testing was conducted at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory in Geelong.

The test results show 6 pork products from 152 tested were contaminated with ASF virus.

The detection of the virus in seized products at the border does not change Australia’s ASF-free status, however it does reinforce the importance of continued compliance with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements.
The department also supports off-shore animal disease surveillance and risk mitigation activities in Australia’s close neighbouring countries.

We will continue to keep a watching brief on the ASF situation.

The state and territory agriculture departments have responsibility for the health and production of livestock in their jurisdictions and apply their own legislation, particularly around biosecurity and swill feeding prohibitions.

The department is also working closely with Australian Pork Limited to provide timely advice to Australian pig producers and industry stakeholders.

About African swine fever

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs that can be associated with high mortality depending on the strain of the virus.

Signs that are seen in infected pigs can be variable but include elevated temperatures; weakness; lethargy; reduced appetite; vomiting; diarrhoea; red, blotchy or black skin lesions; nose and eye discharge; coughing or difficulty breathing; incoordination; convulsions; abortions. Sudden death can also occur with no prior signs of disease.

ASF spreads easily by direct contact between pigs or indirectly by contaminated items including feed, feed ingredients, equipment, vehicles, clothing and footwear. It can also be spread through meat from infected animals, and vectors (such as some ticks).

Due to its high economic impact and lack of a commercially available vaccine, ASF is considered one of the most important diseases of pigs worldwide and is listed as a disease of international significance by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Further information on the impacts of ASF to the Australian pork industry.

Information on the clinical signs of ASF

More information

While the priority lies in keeping exotic pests and diseases out of Australia, biosecurity authorities across Australia are well prepared for animal disease incursions.

We work with industry to prepare pest and disease response plans, and there are robust national response arrangements in place. We train our people and run regular exercises to make sure these arrangements are continually reviewed and improved.

Use the links below to read more about our preparedness and response arrangements.

How we respond to outbreaks

The AUSVETPLAN African Swine Fever Disease Strategy Manual – is the nationally agreed approach for the response to emergency animal diseases in Australia.

National Biosecurity Response Team

For information relating to Australia’s import conditions, please refer to the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions Database.

Useful resources


Media Release

Keeping Australia free from African Swine Fever Thursday
​17 January 2019​​