First, a high fever. The skin goes flushed, purplish. There is a discharge from the eyes and nose. Bloody diarrhea. And within days, death. The survival rate is near zero.
By China’s official estimates, the present outbreak of African swine fever, which affects pigs but is harmless to humans, has already been catastrophic. More than a million pigs have been culled, according to the Chinese government. A billion-plus pork-loving people are facing much tighter supplies. The need to fill the gap is influencing meat markets worldwide.
But the reality of the epidemic may be grimmer still. Several farmers said in interviews that they had not reported potential infections among their animals to the local authorities. Others said officials had not responded quickly to reported outbreaks.
As a result, many farmers and livestock analysts say they assume that the highly contagious disease has infected more pigs, in more places, than Chinese officials have acknowledged.