About a quarter of the world’s pigs are expected to die from African swine fever as authorities grapple with a complex disease spreading rapidly in the globalization era, the World Organization for Animal Health’s president said Thursday.
A sharp reduction in the world’s pig population would lead to possible food shortages and high pork prices, and it might also cause shortfalls in the many products made from pigs, such as the blood-thinner heparin that’s used in people, said Dr. Mark Schipp, the organization’s president.
The disease’s spread in the past year to countries including China, which has half the world’s pigs, had inflamed a worldwide crisis, Schipp told reporters at a briefing in Sydney.
“I don’t think the species will be lost, but it’s the biggest threat to the commercial raising of pigs we’ve ever seen,” he said. “And it’s the biggest threat to any commercial livestock of our generation.”
African swine fever, fatal to hogs but no threat to humans, has wiped out pig herds in many Asian countries. Chinese authorities have destroyed about 1.2 million pigs in an effort to contain the disease there since August 2018.