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The difference between African swine fever and swine flu

From SAPPO Weekly Update, 22 May 2020


There is still confusion about the names, African swine fever (ASF) (Afrika varkpes in Afrikaans), and swine flu/influenza (varkgriep in Afrikaans).

According to Dr Peter Evans - responsible for consumer protection at the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation (SAPPO):

African Swine Fever (ASF)

  • caused by a DNA virus

  • very stable

  • does not affect humans

  • only occurs in domestic pigs and some wild pig breeds e.g. warthogs

  • in South Africa, the reservoir of ASF infection is soft ticks (tampans), residing in warthog burrows.

Swine Flu

  • caused by an RNA virus

  • affects many different mammals, birds and humans

  • classical swine influenza in pigs is caused by a sub-type of the influenza virus called H1N1 (a member of the A-type influenza viruses)

  • no evidence that swine influenza (SI) occurs or has occurred in pigs in South Africa

Dr Evans says, “Investigation of the H1N1(09) outbreak in humans in Mexico and the USA in 2009, determined that the virus had some pig proteins, but this was mostly a human genotype. Although this outbreak was sensationalised as “swine flu” the evidence was that it was a human variant and had very little to do with pigs.”

He emphasizes the following

  • swine influenza does not spread via meat

  • in countries that have influenza, no abattoir workers or pork processors have ever tested positive for antibodies

  • “Pork is safe”


“South Africa’s pork industry has a proud record of high herd health status and we are more than happy to explain all the preventative and operational biosecurity measures maintained by South African pork producers. These protocols safeguard consumers against risk and ensure food safety,” Dr Evans says.

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