Tracking African Swine Fever in Asia

By Najibullah Habib, Thomas R.D. Weaver

African swine fever has cost Asia between $55 billion and $130 billion, including as much as $77 billion in lost revenue.

A deadly viral epidemic is devastating pig populations in Asia, threatening livelihoods and food security and costing economies billions of dollars. African swine fever is driving home the continued importance of strengthening the capacity of nations to detect and respond effectively to emerging diseases.

The first confirmed outbreak of African swine fever in Asia was reported in August 2018 and since then it has spread to through Southeast Asia and other parts of Asia and the Pacific.

The highly virulent strain of the virus circulating in Asia has an estimated case fatality rate of 90%-95% in pigs with no effective vaccine. The responses to the virus have been severe by necessity. Widespread culling has been implemented in most countries. Movement bans and market closures have been enacted. Heightened monitoring has been implemented to the degree feasible. Compensation systems have been established to varying degrees. Extensive awareness raising campaigns have been developed, encouraging reporting of any suspicious disease and improved biosecurity measures.

The true burden of the disease is unlikely to ever be fully known. The paucity of accurate production data, likelihood of misdiagnosis and underreporting, political incentives, complexity of assessing indirect costs and the difficulties of accounting for impacts on human health and nutrition, loss of livelihoods and less tangible impacts such effects on social capital, make accurate assessment problematic. However, assessment of the impact is critical to policymaking and the provision of resources to mitigate risk and control disease.

Our research indicates that direct costs of African swine fever after one year was $55 billion-$130 billion with $28 billion–$46 billion attributed to initial losses to disease and culling, $4 billion-$7 billion to the cost of replacement breeding animals, and $23 billion-$77 billion in lost revenue.