Biosecurity alert: African swine fever

African swine fever (ASF) is geographically closer to the Northern Territory (NT) than anywhere else in Australia, following the recent confirmation in Timor-Leste. However, Australia remains free from ASF and the disease must be kept out.

The spread of ASF has been linked to domestic and feral pigs consuming swill (meat products, or products that have come into contact with meat that is infected with the ASF virus). It can also be transmitted by exposure to contaminated items such as equipment, vehicles, clothing and footwear.

ASF is a contagious disease of pigs and does not affect human health. The virus survives under most environmental conditions and is resistant to most disinfectants. It is not inactivated by freezing or heat less than 100 degrees Celsius.

The greatest risk of introduction of the disease is people illegally bringing pork or pork products into Australia from overseas and feeding those products to pigs.

The Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR) has been working to raise awareness of the disease ensuring everyone understands that biosecurity is their responsibility.

With the confirmation of the disease in Timor-Leste, DPIR has commenced a coordinated preparedness approach to ensure all Territorians understand that they must not bring high-risk items into Australia and to report any sick pigs immediately to the department.

Territorians are urged to do their part. Biosecurity in the NT is everyone’s business. You can help prevent an outbreak of ASF in Australia by:

  • Paying particular attention to biosecurity requirements when visiting or returning to Australia, especially after visiting countries where ASF may be present. Before you travel, check what can and cannot be brought into Australia.
  • Never feeding pigs food or food scraps containing animal matter such as meat, meat products and eggs. This includes swill (food scraps) that is contaminated by animal matter. Only feed pigs commercially available feed, and always disposing of food waste properly so pigs can’t eat them. 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 animals.
  • Considering where your goods are coming from when buying online 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.
  • Registering for property identification codes (PICs). In the NT, it is a legal requirement for all owners of livestock, including pigs and chickens, to register their property with a PIC. PIC registrations are free and are crucial to managing responses to disease outbreaks and alerting property owners of a potential disease threat in the area.
  • Familiarising yourself with the clinical signs of ASF, especially those Vets who treat pigs and other cloven hoofed livestock such as cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, deer and camels. ASF is a reportable disease. Veterinarians must notify the chief veterinary officer in their state or territory if they suspect or know an animal has a notifiable disease.

DPIR has also been distributing information to registered vets within the NT, providing assistance to Timor-Leste and liaising with stakeholders and counterparts in the NT, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy, the National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network and Darwin International Airport.

Surveillance, monitoring and additional activities are ongoing and DPIR will continue to work with the Australian Government Department of Agriculture to protect Australia’s borders.

The NT Government is also asking pig owners and pig hunters to remain vigilant for ASF as this serious disease continues to spread through neighbouring regions.

If you’re hunting and you observe a sick or deceased pig, please contact us. Do not come into contact with or move any pigs that are sick or found deceased.

For more information contact the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 or visit the Northern Territory Government website.

Last updated: 28 September 2020

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