The pork industry is worth about $128 billion in China and the country's 375 million pigs make up just under half the planet's total.
The number of pigs China will fatten to prepare for slaughter and sale this year is predicted to fall by 20%, from 2018. This is the worst annual slump since the U.S. Department of Agriculture — interested in exports to China — began counting China's pigs in the mid-1970s.
The virus spreads easily among the animals as it can be carried in clothing, infected blood, or fluids from urine, saliva or faeces, and on tires and shoes.
There are concerns that Chinese provincial governments are suppressing data and asking pork companies not to report new outbreaks
The pig flu was first detected outside Africa in 1957, in Portugal, but never before has it spread so rapidly and been so damaging as it did in China now. All of the 33 provinces and regions in China have been affected.
Other countries are battling the outbreak. The disease has been found in Mongolia, Cambodia and North Korea. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization believes that cases reported by local governments are underestimates
This outbreak was first detected in China in August 2018 in Liaoning province in the northeast. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs immediately responded with emergency measures.
According to guidelines, all pigs in a three kilometer zone around an infected herd had to be killed. Roadblocks were meant to be set up and inspection and disinfection stations established within a 10-kilometer buffer zone. This was not strictly implemented.
Pork is the meat of choice in China and no meal is complete without it. Braised in sauce, as Mao Zedong demanded, in dumplings or just plainly fried or boiled, pork accounts for nearly three-quarters of Chinese meat consumption.
Pig rearing in China, despite large industrialized farms, remains a predominately small-scale affair. Pigs also provide cheap garbage disposal services.