It’s an unprecedented outbreak of a virus that’s deadly to pigs.
An outbreak of African swine fever, a highly contagious disease that’s been called “pig Ebola,” is ravaging Asia’s pig industry with no signs of letting up.
The current outbreak of the virus, which kills almost all animals it infects, began in China in August. Since then, some 22 percent of the country’s pig herd has been lost to the disease and to culling, Christine McCracken, an animal protein expert at Rabobank, told Vox.
Read also: Reasons why you should never eat pork
African swine fever is also now spreading in several countries neighboring China, including Mongolia, Russia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The map below shows current outbreaks in Asia, as reported to the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE.
The disease, which was discovered a century ago in Kenya, is particularly deadly to pigs because it spreads easily and there is no treatment or vaccine. The only way for pig producers to prevent it is to kill all animals that have been infected or potentially exposed, or to put strict biosecurity measures in place.
Officials in China have tried in vain to get the outbreak under control to protect the country’s roughly 440 million pigs, which make up more than half of all pigs on earth. So far, it says it has culled 1.2 million pigs, putting thousands of small producers out of business. McCracken and others say that is a significant underestimate.