If you have seen the news lately you have probably heard about a highly contagious virus that affects pigs, African swine fever (ASF). It does not affect other animals or humans.

An outbreak of the virus was reported in China in August last year and since then it has been spreading through South East Asia. It is also present in parts of Europe.

While it is not a risk to human health, African swine fever could devastate New Zealand’s pork industry if it ever made its way into this country.

Biosecurity New Zealand (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries) are taking the threat from ASF very seriously and have strong measures in place to keep it out.

However, all of us have a role to play in protecting New Zealand from unwanted pests and diseases. This includes lifestylers that might have a few pigs in the backyard.

What you can do

New Zealand doesn’t import live pigs, however African swine fever can be spread through contaminated pig products.

Biosecurity NZ says despite stringent measures to manage any risks, unauthorised meat products could still potentially enter the country.

Making sure pigs are not fed uncooked meat waste is a vital part of protecting pigs in New Zealand from African swine fever.

There are rules we all need to follow when feeding meat or food waste containing meat to pigs. These rules apply to pigs that are destined for the dinner table and pet pigs alike.

The Biosecurity (Meat and Food Waste for Pigs) Regulations 2005 requires all food waste that contains meat, or has come into contact with meat, must be heated and maintained at 100°C for one hour to kill off any viruses before being fed to pigs.

We also encourage you to update your details in AgriBase here. AgriBase is part of New Zealand's biosecurity system, and holds location, contact details, livestock and crop information.

Please be assured that your data will be held securely according to the Privacy Act 1993 and you will not be asked for any financial information or passwords.

Report any signs of the virus

If African swine fever does enter New Zealand, early detection and diagnosis is crucial.

If you have pigs, please be alert for any unusual symptoms or illness. Signs you could see include fever, red and blotchy skin, poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhoea, and death.

Always contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the health of your pigs, regardless of what symptoms you are seeing.

But if you suspect one of your pigs of having ASF (or another exotic disease), you are legally obliged to report it. Call your veterinarian, or contact Biosecurity NZ on 0800 80 99 66.

More information about African swine fever is available on the Biosecurity NZ website and on the NZ Pork website.