Keeping African swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease out of Australia

​​​​​​In light of the changing distribution of African swine fever (ASF) in Asia and parts of Europe, the department has undertaken additional activities to ensure that its biosecurity measures continue to protect Australia from exotic diseases. This includes increased screening measures, and testing a sample of pork products seized at international airports and mail processing centres for ASF and foot and mouth disease (FMD).

ASF is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild pigs. An outbreak of ASF in Australia would have significant impacts on pig production and health. 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). In January 2019 Mongolia also first reported ASF, and in February 2019 it has been detected in Vietnam. The department is responding actively to this situation.

FMD is one of the most serious exotic livestock diseases affecting cloven hoofed animals such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, deer and camels. FMD is considered to be the single greatest biosecurity threat of any disease to Australia’s livestock industries. Australia has been free from FMD since 1872. A 2013 report by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences estimated that the direct impact of a large multi-state FMD outbreak in Australia would result in an economic cost of around $50 billion over 10 years. Australia’s access to economically important international markets would be compromised. It would also be very difficult and costly to eradicate. FMD has been reported in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Russia and South America.

ASF has never occurred in Australia, and we have been free from FMD since 1872. It is crucial that Australia remains free from both ASF and FMD, and the department is committed to minimising the risks of these exotic diseases entering Australia.

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

Action by biosecurity authorities

Biosecurity authorities continue to monitor the global health situation as well as the spread of ASF and FMD.

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 work in partnership with the states and territories, industry and the community to manage our biosecurity system.

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Strengthened biosecurity measures for permitted and unpermitted products

Australia has science-based import conditions that manage the biosecurity risks associated with imported goods, which are available in Australia’s Biosecurity Import Conditions database BICON. To manage ASF and FMD risks, commercially imported pork and pork products for human consumption must be retorted (eg canned) or cured under very specific conditions to inactivate viruses, or be sourced from disease-free countries that have been approved by the department (also available through BICON). Porcine origin pet treats such as rawhide chews and pig ears are subject to sourcing and stringent treatment requirements which may include gamma irradiation. Laboratory materials (e.g. animal fluids and tissues, and culture media) and pet food containing porcine material are also subject to specific import conditions. In most of these circumstances, a valid import permit must be approved by the department prior to importation of pork products into Australia. All pork and other porcine products must meet the relevant import conditions before they can be released from biosecurity control.

Jerky, biltong and other smallgoods containing pork, are not permitted to be imported as they are considered to pose a high biosecurity risk. This includes products arriving with international passengers and through international mail.

Increased border activities

The department has increased our intervention at the border, targeting high risk products at international airports and mail processing centres. 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, and again between January and February 2019 for ASF and FMD virus.

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

The first round of test results from 3 to 17 December 2018 showed that 6 pork products from 152 tested were contaminated with ASF virus fragments; only shelf stable products were tested in this round. A further round of testing from 20 January to 3 February was expanded to include fresh and frozen products; 40 out of 283 pork products tested positive for ASF virus fragments.

All samples from the second round were also tested for FMD; 2 products from 283 tested positive for FMD virus fragments and 1 product recorded an inconclusive result. All potentially FMD virus infectious material was destroyed at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.

The detection of these viruses in seized products at the border does not change Australia’s ASF or FMD-free status, however it does reinforce the importance of continued compliance with Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements. Bringing banned products to Australia puts our environment, industries and animal health at risk.

Keeping watch

The department will continue to keep a watching brief on ASF, FMD and other significant animal diseases.

The department also supports off-shore animal disease surveillance and risk mitigation activities in Australia’s close neighbouring countries, and monitors situational updates provided by the OIE World Organisation for Animal Health.

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.

What you can do to prevent an outbreak

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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 and FMD 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. If you do not declare, you could be issued with an infringement notice, and potentially face civil or criminal prosecutions, enforceable undertakings and court injunctions. 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).

Information for travellers - Mandarin

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 that can survive for long periods in products, making it possible for diseases to spread to new areas. If any of your overseas family or friends are sending goods to Australia, be sure to tell them of this requirement.

Pig and livestock 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 FMD. For more information, please refer to resources on Farm Biosecurity on feeding your pigs and swill feeding laws that apply to your state or territory.

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. 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.

FMD not only affects pigs but other cloven-hoofed animals including cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats, and deer. More information on FMD for livestock owners is available on our webpage: Foot-and-mouth disease.

Producers and all livestock owners 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 don’t have these measures in place visit Farm Biosecurity to see how this can be applied to your farm, or contact your peak industry body.

If you see signs of disease consistent with ASF in domestic or feral pigs or FMD in cloven hoofed animals, 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 ASF and FMD must be reported to animal health authorities.

Information for pig owners - Mandarin

Veterinarians

Vets who treat pigs and other cloven hoofed livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, deer and camels should familiarise themselves with the clinical signs of ASF, FMD, and other significant animal diseases. Further information is also detailed below.
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.

More information

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About African swine fever

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 OIE World Organisation for Animal Health.

For more information, please refer to the following:

About foot and mouth disease

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious virus disease of animals. It is one of the most serious livestock diseases. It affects cloven-hoofed animals (those with divided hoofs), including cattle, buffalo, camels, sheep, goats, deer and pigs. It is found in many parts of the world, and has been reported in countries in Africa, the Middles East, Asia, Russia and South America. While it can cause serious production losses the most significant impact of the disease occurs because of its effect on trade in livestock and livestock products. Countries without the disease, which include many of Australia’s major trading partners do not import from, or severely restrict imports from FMD-infected countries.

FMD is a viral disease that spreads rapidly between animals. Virus is excreted in breath, saliva, mucus, milk and faeces. The virus can be excreted by animals for up to four days before clinical signs appear. Animals can become infected through inhalation, ingestion and direct contact. The disease spreads most commonly through the movement of infected animals. In sheep the symptoms can be absent or very mild, and undetected infected sheep can be an important source of infection. FMD virus can also be spread on wool, hair, grass or straw; by the wind; or by mud or manure sticking to footwear, clothing, livestock equipment or vehicle tyres.

Pigs are regarded as ‘amplifying hosts’ because they can excrete very large quantities of the virus in their exhaled breath. Cattle are very susceptible too, and able to be infected by breathing in small quantities of the virus. In some animals (‘carriers’), the virus can continue to be carried for long periods (months or years) after apparent recovery.

Although FMD is not very lethal in adult animals, it can kill young animals and cause serious production losses. The clinical signs are fever followed by the appearance of vesicles (fluid-filled blisters) between the toes and on the heels, on mammary glands and especially on the lips, tongue and palate. These vesicles often combine to form large, swollen blisters that erupt to leave raw, painful ulcers that take up to 10 days to heal.

Foot lesions leave animals lame and unable to walk to feed or water. Tongue and mouth lesions are very painful and cause animals to drool and stop eating. Adults usually begin eating again after a few days, but young animals may weaken and die, or be left with foot deformities or damage to the mammary glands.

FMD is important in international trade in animals and animal products, with countries that are free of the disease banning or restricting imports from affected countries. This means an outbreak would have serious economic implications for a major livestock-exporting country like Australia.

For more information, please refer to the following:

Preparation and response arrangements

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:

Non-English speaking background communities and swill feeding project

In 2017 we funded a project to engage with and increase our knowledge about pig owners from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB) in Australia. NESB community groups in the study location selected were Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. This was based on their traditional pig-rearing practices and pork consumption. These pig owners may be more likely to swill feed due to traditional cultural pig rearing practices.

Learn more about the project or read the full project report on the NSW DPI website.

Other resources

For more information on importing goods into Australia, please refer to Australia’s Biosecurity Import Conditions database BICON, or contact Imports by email or phone 1800 900 090.


Media Release

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