Experts from Kansas State University advise officials in East Asia on the looming problem of African swine fever.
Jürgen Regent, Regent Professor and Director of the University Center of Excellence for Emerging and Zoonotic Animal Diseases, known as CEEZAD, is an internationally recognized expert in cross-border animal diseases. He was in Asia to give a series of lectures when an outbreak of African swine fever was reported in China on 1 August. A second outbreak was reported on 16 August and a third on 19 August.
African swine fever is a highly contagious disease of domestic swine and wild boar. The disease causes high fever, respiratory problems, weakness and stillbirths. The economic consequences for pork production are grim: The mortality rates among the affected animals are approaching 1
"Efforts to manage a potential outbreak have not been successful, so we need to be concerned that the disease is spreading across national borders," Richard Richt said. "The first outbreak occurred just over 120 miles north of North Korea."
The Veterinary Faculty and students of the University of Konkuk in Seoul, South Korea, and members of South Korean media and pig associations spoke Rich. He said South Korea was not well prepared to tackle the outbreak, and the country was working to improve its emergency procedures. It is particularly difficult to stem the disease as it tends to spread over wild boar.
Richt also tackled the challenges faced by researchers in developing African swine fever vaccines. CEEZAD is actively involved in efforts to develop mitigation strategies to combat African swine fever and to develop vaccines.
Young Lyoo, Dean of the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Konkuk, said Rich's information will help save a frontline defense of an important industry and protects a valuable protein source.
"Not only did Dr. Richard Richter provide expertise and opinions on disease and control, but he also mediated public, government, and industry through media exposure," Lyoo said. "His visit has shown how important international cooperation is in combating contagious cross-border diseases."
According to Richt, the disease explained trade problems for China and other Asian countries. China produces almost half of the world's pork.
"African swine fever is a threat to world trade in the pork industry, which will ultimately hit Western Europe, the United States and other trading partners."
Stephen Higgs, Director of Kansas State University's Biosafety Research Institute, and Wenjun Ma, a lecturer in Diagnostic Medicine and Pathobiology at the University's Veterinary College, also traveled to China to hold invited lectures at the Animal Infection and Human Health Conference the Chinese Veterinary and Chinese Society of Immunology in Harbin, China. Higgs described work at the Biosecurity Research Institute, Richard lectured on Rift Valley fever virus and Ma discussed his work on bat flu viruses.
Higgs said the invitations showed international respect for Kansas State University research in infectious diseases and biological weapons.
"Our facilities and experts are second to none," said Higgs. "We are closely monitoring the global outbreaks and are implementing a rigorous research program to defend against economically devastating epizootic diseases."