• The agriculture department is recommending a form of social distancing for South Africa's pigs.
  • African swine fever has now also been detected in the Free State, and may be spreading fast in the Eastern Cape.
  • The disease is highly fatal, often wiping out entire herds.
  • It does not affect humans.
  • Pig farmers should look to the coronavirus response for inspiration, the government says, with social distancing, self isolation, and disinfecting regimes to protect their livestock.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South African pig owners should implement a form of social distancing for their herds, the South African government now recommends, and should look to the human coronavirus response for inspiration on other measures too.

African swine fever has now been detected in the Free State, and may be spreading fast in the Eastern Cape.

The first case of the deadly and highly contagious disease was detected in the Eastern Cape earlier in May. 

See also: African swine fever hits SA: What you need to know

By 22 May, the department of agriculture, land reform, and rural development said on Sunday, pig deaths had been reported in 16 out of 23 villages investigated in that province. Tests from two of those villages have confirmed the presence of the disease, but other results are still not back.

By 15 May a case had also been detected in the Mafube municipality, centred on Frankfort, in the Free State.

The measures that should be taken to stop the spread of African swine fever are not that different from those in place to slow SARS-CoV-2, the agriculture department said.

“The department encourages taking lessons from Covid-19 and practising good measures such as ’social distancing’ – keeping your pigs confined, do not allow people access to your pigs, do not introduce new pigs whose health status and origin are unknown to you.

“‘Self-isolation’ – place new animals under quarantine before you introduce them to your herd until you are sure they are safe.

“‘Disinfection' – regularly clean your sties and keep the environment clean at all times.”

Much like the novel coronavirus, there is no vaccine or cure for African swine fever, though it is far more deadly, sometimes killing 100% of herds. 

In 2019 China culled a massive proportion of its national pig herd to stop its spread, driving up pork prices around the world.

See also: China is killing a third of its pigs because of African swine flu, which could drive up the price of pork around the world

Experts believe the South African supply of pork, and so prices, should remain stable.

Contaminated food, shoes, tools, and tick can all spread African swine fever, as can contact with infected wild pigs.

The disease does not affect humans.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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