Gene editing could produce a virus-resistant pig in the future. That's why the ongoing battle with African swine fever ASF in the Chinese hog herd poses some serious market implications for global agriculture. And last week, the virus had reportedly spread to North Korea, a country that is unlikely to make any effort toward containment. ASF is a viral disease that is both highly contagious and almost always fatal. While the virus cannot be transmitted to humans and is not a food-safety threat, the economic consequences from a spread of this disease are potentially devastating. Some context on the China situation illustrates what is at stake.
Veterinary authorities from 12 countries agreed to form a new network to share information and work jointly to control the spread of the disease. The virus that causes ASF doesn't infect humans, but the most virulent strains are nearly universally fatal for pigs. There is no vaccine and no cure, so controlling the spread of the disease requires destroying all animals on infected farms. The appearance of the virus in China in August —and its inevitable spread—threatens devastating economic losses for farmers and shortages of a vital source of protein for citizens of developing countries, particularly in East and Southeast Asia. China's agriculture ministry reported a new outbreak while the Bangkok meeting was in progress; the virus has now been found at 18 farms or slaughterhouses in six provinces, according to FAO. The outbreak sites are widely dispersed, indicating that shipments of pork products are spreading the disease; live animals aren't usually shipped over such long distances. The virus is on the move in Eurasia and Eastern Europe as well.
ASF is deadly to hogs and poses a huge threat to a country's pig industry and related sectors. China, home to the world's largest hog herd, reported its first case of African swine fever in the northeastern province of Liaoning last August. How ASF affects China The disease reduced the population and production capacity of pork in China, who is the world's biggest consumer and producer of pork.
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