APHIS issues travel guidelines to avoid African swine flu

Agriculure Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach on Wednesday issued a video and alerts to help international travelers avoid bringing African swine fever back to the United States on their clothes, shoes or hands.

“African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious and deadly disease affecting both domestic and feral (wild) pigs,” said Ibach. “It does not affect human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans.”

“ASF has never been detected in the United States,” he said, “but an outbreak here would not only affect the pork industry, but would have major impacts on trade and raise food prices for consumers.

“We are asking international travelers to help prevent the spread of ASF to the United States by understanding what products can be brought back into the United States, and declaring any agricultural items in their baggage.”

Travelers will also see some changes at airports as USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to increase screenings of passenger baggage, APHIS said. This includes training and adding 60 additional beagle teams for a total of 179 teams working at key U.S. commercial, sea, and air ports and ensuring travelers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection.

USDA is also coordinating with CBP to expand arrival screenings, including checking cargo for illegal pork and pork products.

“Anyone who visits a farm in an ASF-affected country should take specific precautions before returning to the United States,” APHIS advised.

“Follow the farm’s biosecurity protocols and wear site specific footwear and coveralls or clothing. Thoroughly clean and disinfect or dispose of clothes and footwear worn on the farm before returning, and declare the farm visit to CBP when re-entering the United States.

“Travelers should not visit farms or any other locations with pigs — including livestock markets, zoos, circuses and pet stores with pot-bellied pigs — for at least five days after returning.”

–The Hagstrom Report