During October 2019, Australia’s agriculture minister cancelled a Vietnamese woman’s visa after authorities found 22 pounds of undeclared food products in her luggage. The luggage contained pork, quail, squid, pâté, fruit, eggs and garlic (Griffiths, 2019). International travel and trade increases the risks of introducing a foreign/exotic disease or pest into another country. Australia had to develop an extensive eradication program in 2010, after the fungal disease chestnut blight was brought into the country and then detected on native trees.
Native Ecosystems, Agriculture Impacted by Disease Introductions
Often, native ecosystems do not have the ability to resist these foreign threats. Exotic diseases and pests are also significant threats to global agricultural production. African swine fever (ASF) is a foreign animal disease of pigs that has forced countries to increase their border security, in response to several rapid and deadly outbreaks.
International Outbreaks of African Swine Fever
Historically, ASF outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Since 2007, the disease has been reported in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic and wild pigs (World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)). Concerns about ASF being introduced to the United States have greatly increased since recent international outbreaks during 2018 (Feedstuffs, 2019). As of December 2019, the United States has not been affected by ASF.
If African swine fever should enter the United States, it has the potential to severely impact livestock producers, consumers and the economy. There could be a pork and pork by-product shortage, an increase in pork prices, and a tremendous loss of income for pork producers. ASF might already be reaching United States borders; all ports of entry are possible inlets for its introduction. Five U.S. airports account for 90 percent of the potential risk (Jurado C., et al., 2019):
- Newark Airport (New Jersey).
- George Bush-Houston Airport (Texas).
- John F Kennedy Airport (New York).
- San Jose (California).
- Los Angeles (California).
USDA and CBP Response
Thanks to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP), ASF has not entered the U.S. and caused an outbreak yet. International travelers entering or re-entering the United States must fill out a form to declare who they are, and what they are bringing into the U.S. with them. The declaration form is used as a means to prevent the entry of dangerous agricultural pests and prohibited wildlife, by screening for restricted items such as:
- Plant products.
- Meat products.
- Other live animals or products.
Any of these restricted items can harbor harmful diseases, such as ASF on pork products. The USDA and CBP also use specially trained dog teams for secondary inspections, to investigate incoming luggage for restricted agricultural and wildlife products. In response to ASF, 60 more beagle teams will be added in the coming year.
Biosecurity Measures for Farm Visitors
The USDA and CBP are the first lines of defense at the U.S. borders to stop the importation of foreign diseases and pests. Producers can be their own lines of defense in minimizing disease introductions to livestock. All farm visitors are potential carriers of infectious disease agents, but visitors who traveled internationally pose a greater risk of bringing foreign animal diseases with them. Visitors can carry disease agents in their throats, nasal passages, on personal belongings and on food products for several days after leaving a foreign country. Livestock producers should practice the following biosecurity measures to lower the risk of disease introductions from visitors (CFSPH, 2019):
- Pre-approve visitors before they arrive.
- Ask visitors if they traveled internationally, and when they returned; visitors should wait at least five days after international travel before visiting a farm.
- Ask visitors to shower, wash their hair and blow their nose before arrival.
- Create a separate parking area away from farm facilities.
- Do not allow visitors to bring food products and personal items with them.
- Have site-specific protective gear including specific footwear and coveralls available for visitors to wear.
- Keep an escort with visitors at all times.
- Prevent visitors from having any direct contact with livestock.
Travelers Can Help Prevent Disease Introductions
International travelers and other visitors can do their part to protect farm livestock as well. (CDFA, 2016). Biosecurity measures visitors and travelers can take include:
- Avoid wearing any items on a trip that will be worn again on a farm after returning.
- Use disposable protective gear during farm visits.
- Declare an international farm visit on the customs form to have items disinfected properly.
- Declare any items being brought into the U.S.
- Avoid bringing prohibited items across borders.
The combined efforts of the USDA, CBP, livestock producers and travelers has helped to keep ASF from entering the United States. It is important for travelers to realize that upon return to the U.S., they could be carrying a foreign animal disease or pest with them.
Keeping biosecurity measures in mind when traveling or hosting farm visitors will limit the potential for foreign animal disease introductions like African swine fever.
Griffiths J. (October 2019). Australia expels Vietnamese Tourist Caught with Raw Pork in Her Luggage. Retrieved From: https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/australia-vietnam-pork-customs-intl-hnk-scli/index.html
California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). (August 2016). International Travel Biosecurity Tips – Best Practices for Producers [PDF File]. Retrieved from: https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/pdfs/biotipsft.pdf
Swine Health/Pork Checkoff. (2019). Hosting International Visitors on Your Farm. Retrieved from https://www.swinehealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/TravelBiosecurity_Handout__International_Visitors_November2016_FINAL.pdf
Jurado, C., Mur, L., Pérez Aguirreburualde, M.S. et al. (2019). Risk of African swine fever virus introduction into the United States through smuggling of pork in air passenger luggage. Sci Rep 9, 14423. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-50403-w
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (March 2019). USDA Provides Tips for international Travelers to Help Keep African Swine Fever Out of the United States. Retrieved from: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/2019/sa-03/asf-tips
World Organisation for Animal Health. Key Facts About African Swine Fever. Retrieved from https://www.oie.int/en/animal-health-in-the-world/animal-diseases/african-swine-fever/
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