Deadly pig disease could have led to Covid spillover to humans, analysis suggests
African swine fever led to mass cull of pigs in China and may have increased human-virus contact as people turned to other meat
An outbreak of a deadly pig disease may have set the stage for Covid-19 to take hold in humans, a new analysis has suggested. African swine fever (ASF), which first swept through China in 2018, disrupted pork supplies increasing the potential for human-virus contact as people sought out alternative meats.
Pork is the main meat source in the Chinese diet, and the country produces half of the world’s pigs, which generate roughly 55m tonnes of pork annually, forming an industry worth more than $128bn (£98bn). The ASF outbreak had spread across most of China by the fourth quarter of 2019. The disease is untreatable and incurable. Once it takes hold, the only solution is to kill infected animals.