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USDA Expands Laboratory Capabilities to Test for African Swine Fever

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has stepped up its laboratory capabilities to test for African swine fever, Greg Ibach, USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs announced last week. [Source: National Hog Farmer 2 March 2020]

"Many of you that have strong swine industries in your state and hear, probably almost on a weekly, if not daily basis, from those swine producers worried about what happens if African swine fever shows up in the United States," Ibach said as he addressed attendees at the 2020 National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Winter Policy Conference. He said one priority for USDA over the past year has been to ramp up laboratory capabilities.

"Trying to make diagnostic capabilities more available and match up with the species of livestock that are predominant in your state," Ibach said

There are now 46 laboratories across the country that can test for ASF. "That capacity allows us to test over 40,000 different samples a day and we have a very large capacity now," Ibach said.

Last May, the USDA announced it was furthering its overall ASF preparedness efforts with the implementation of a surveillance plan. USDA added ASF testing to its existing classical swine fever surveillance. The agency can now test samples from the same high-risk animals using the same overall process but will test for both diseases instead of one.

Ibach said the United States is continuing to work domestically as well as internationally to fight ASF.

"We are continuing to work with states and do exercises," Ibach said. "We're going to have another one here in a few weeks that again will focus on North America."

The exercise will also involve neighboring countries with an eye on possibly expanding anti-ASF cooperation.

"We're going to have Canada and Mexico both involved with that exercise and Chile is going to come and be an observer during that exercise as well," Ibach said. "We hope to work with Chile to be able to cohost a discussion about keeping African swine fever out of South America as well so that we can create a protection zone across the entire Western Hemisphere."