African swine fever has devastated the vast pig farms in China and now threatens to spread elsewhere, various reports say.
Why it matters: The highly contagious virus — which has minimal risk of mutating to become harmful to humans — has spread so rapidly since August that officials are warning it could go global, the Wall Street Journal reports, possibly even reaching U.S. shores.
- The pork industry, already impacted by trade tensions between China and the U.S., has led to China importing meat from the U.S. to help satisfy domestic demand, per WSJ. It adds that a Chinese government official last week predicted prices for pork — the country’s most widely consumed meat — could rise by more than 70% this year.
- And, other industries could be affected. For instance, it could jeopardize the global availability of heparin, a blood thinner, science journal Nature reports.
What's next: The only current method of halting an outbreak is by culling herds, but the Chinese government is prioritizing research on the virus, setting aside about 100 million yuan (US$15 million) for projects such as developing a vaccine, George Gao, VP of the National Natural Science Foundation of China told Nature.