As African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to spread among pigs throughout parts of Asia, Africa and Europe, the U.S Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is helping the scientific community and government decisionmakers get ahead of this devastating animal disease. S&T released today the ASF Master Question List (MQL) a comprehensive resource that provides an up-to-date authoritative summary of publicly available information about the virus to promote coordinated research and improved emergency response preparedness.
ASF virus is a deadly pathogen that impacts domestic and feral swine but is not transmissible to humans and poses no direct threat to human health. Although not yet present in the United States or its territories, ASF virus is contagious and is spreading in many parts of the world. Should there be an outbreak in the United States, ASF poses a catastrophic risk to the more than $20 billion pork industry and to America’s food economy. The ASF MQL summarizes succinctly what is currently known about the virus, what additional information is needed, and who is working to address fundamental research questions such as, “How much ASF virus will make a pig sick?” and “How can farmers safely decontaminate materials?”
“Just because a disease isn’t currently present in the United States, doesn’t mean it isn’t a potential threat or that we shouldn’t be prepared. The rapid spread of COVID-19 demonstrated how quickly a small outbreak occurring overseas can explode into a massive epidemic disrupting our daily lives,” said Dr. Lloyd Hough who leads DHS S&T’s Hazard Awareness & Characterization Technology Center. Hough led the development of the ASF MQL with S&T’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) where DHS collaborates with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct ASF research and countermeasure testing, evaluation and development. “This work may prove vital since ASF reemerged recently in China and continues to impact other parts of the globe significantly,” said Hough.
The ASF MQL helps fill a knowledge gap identified by the DHS Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office and is one example of how DHS S&T is supporting global response efforts with actionable information. This resource may help agencies like U.S. Customs and Border Protection use science-driven data to efficiently flag and remove unauthorized pork and pork products at America’s borders and other points of entry.
DHS S&T continues to work closely with its partners to deploy a whole-of-government approach toward understanding ASF and take proactive action. DHS S&T co-leads the African Swine Fever Task Force with USDA and coordinates with other federal agencies and domestic and international partners.
“This is the first time we are creating a master question list for an animal disease, said Hough, who led the creation of the COVID-19 MQL and other products. “We are proactively looking for knowledge gaps with our partners as ASF virus continues to be a significant threat internationally. Together, DHS and USDA, and our partners have recognized this and expanded the ASF research footprint, while the MQL helps us make the most of limited resources,” he said.
DHS S&T will update the ASF MQL periodically as new knowledge becomes publicly available.
For a quick summary of ASF research at PIADC, please see our factsheet: S&T African Swine Fever Factsheet