African swine fever: how to spot and report the disease

How to spot African swine fever, what to do if you suspect it, and how to stop it spreading.

African swine fever (ASF) affects all pigs, including wild boar.

ASF is not the same disease as swine influenza. It does not affect humans.

African swine fever is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect it you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Current situation

ASF is spreading in Europe and has also been found in China. In affected areas the disease has been confirmed in wild boar, as well as on farms, smallholdings and in pet pigs.

Defra and APHA are monitoring the situation to assess the risk to the UK pig population.

How to spot ASF

The signs of ASF are very similar to classical swine fever.

The main clinical signs are:

  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • lack of energy
  • sudden death with few signs beforehand

Other signs can include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • red or dark skin, particularly on the ears and snout
  • discharges from the eyes and nose
  • laboured breathing and coughing
  • abortions
  • weakness
  • unsteady gait

There are several different strains of ASF.

Pigs infected with mild strains may not become ill or show typical clinical signs.

Severe strains of the disease are generally fatal.

Photos of clinical signs

Defra has published photos of the clinical signs of ASF.

How ASF spreads

The disease is highly contagious. It can spread if healthy pigs:

  • eat infectious meat or meat products - the virus survives for a long time in cooked or frozen meat
  • have contact with infected pigs or their faeces or body fluids
  • have contact with anything contaminated with the virus - such as people, clothing, vehicles and other equipment

Prevent ASF spreading

You should practice strict biosecurity to prevent the disease spreading. This includes:

  • wearing protective clothing and boots, and providing these for anyone coming onto your premises
  • cleaning and disinfecting vehicles and equipment that you’ve used in areas where pigs are
  • disposing of leftovers or waste food in secure bins that pigs or wildlife cannot access

A full list of the biosecurity measures you should take is in the guide for disease prevention for livestock and poultry keepers.

Register land you use to keep pigs

You must register your land and your animals if you keep pigs, including pet pigs.

This is so government can track the location and movement of livestock to prevent and control disease.

Do not feed pigs food waste

It’s illegal to feed catering or domestic food waste to pigs or wild boar. This is because there’s a risk of spreading disease.

Catering waste includes food from vegetarian and vegan kitchens. This is because there’s a risk of cross contamination from other food.

Domestic food waste includes:

  • kitchen waste or scraps, such as leftovers from meals
  • raw, partially or fully cooked meat
  • meat that’s been cured, dried, smoked or frozen
  • fish, including shellfish
  • dog and cat food

You should dispose of leftovers, waste food and any packaging in secure bins so that pigs or wildlife cannot access it.

You should not take meat or meat products into areas where pigs are kept, or where wild boar live.

What you can feed pigs

You should feed your pigs specially formulated commercial pig feed.

You can also feed them fruit and vegetables if these have never:

  • been taken into a domestic or commercial kitchen
  • come into contact with material of animal origin

Prevent ASF spreading if you travel to affected countries

ASF has been confirmed in areas in the following European countries:

  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Moldova
  • Poland
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Sardinia
  • Ukraine

ASF is not confirmed in all areas of these countries but there’s a risk you’ll bring the disease back to the UK if, while you’re there you:

  • have contact with pigs or wild boar - such as on farms or smallholdings
  • visit areas where wild boar may live - such as in forests or woodland

If you do this you should clean and disinfect clothing, footwear, vehicles and equipment before you:

  • return to the UK
  • have contact with pigs, or visit areas where wild boar live

You should tell the owner you’ve visited an affected area if you work on a farm that keeps pigs, or visit someone who keeps a pet pig.

Trade and personal imports

It’s illegal to trade in pork or wild boar meat from ASF affected areas.

You can bring meat or meat products back from ASF affected countries as personal imports, but you must dispose of it so that pigs and wild boar cannot access it.

Hunting in ASF affected areas

Hunting is banned is some ASF affected areas. Check with the hunt organiser before you travel.

If you’re allowed to hunt in an affected area, you should not:

  • touch dead or sick wild boar or go into the area around them
  • take meat or meat products into areas where wild boar live
  • leave any food, especially meat or meat products in open bins
  • take dogs with you - ASF can survive in dogs’ fur

You must not feed meat or meat products to wild boar or use them as bait - it’s illegal to do this.

When you return to the UK you should not bring back trophies or any carcase parts.

You should clean and disinfect clothing, footwear, vehicles and equipment before you return to the UK.

Controlling ASF if it’s suspected or confirmed

Find out what happens when a notifiable disease is suspected or confirmed.

If the disease is confirmed, the African swine fever disease control strategy for Great Britain will be put in place to control the outbreak.

ASF legislation

The Diseases of Swine Regulations 2014 implement EU Directive 2002/60/EC for the control of African swine fever.

Published 26 August 2014
Last updated 4 December 2018 + show all updates
  1. Updated to include latest guidance on how to spot, report and prevent the spread of African swine fever.
  2. Contact details to report a notifiable disease updated.
  3. Added information on the current situation in Europe.
  4. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
  5. AHVLA documents have been re-assigned to the new Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).
  6. First published.