Bettie the beagle, a director dog for U.S. Customs and Border Safety, picked up the scent of pork on a woman arriving from China at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Soon the dog’s controller discovered and confiscated a ham sandwich in the purse of a passenger who had flown on a China Eastern Airways flight from Shanghai.
The meals might be infected with African swine fever and spread the disease to the U.S. China has lost millions of pigs in epidemics of the illness, pushing its pork prices to record highs, forcing purchases of pricey imports and disturbing international meat markets.
Bettie is among an expanded staff of specially educated beagles at U.S. airports, half of a larger effort to protect the nation’s $23 billion pork business from a disease that has decimated China’s hog herd.
Governments worldwide are pushing to shore up their defenses as the illness spreads over China’s borders. The efforts mark the grave threat to global agriculture.
African swine fever has spread to Southeast Asia and eastern Europe, with cases found in Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, Laos Poland, Belgium, and Bulgaria. Across the globe, those nations and others that have up to now sidestepped the outbreak are breaking down on travelers, increasing cargo checking and banning meat imports.
Pork-producing nations stand to lose billions of dollars if the disease infects their industries because outbreaks devastate farms and shut export markets.
African swine fever doesn’t threaten people; however, there’s no vaccine or treatment for infected pigs.