Around a quarter of the world’s population of pigs could die from African swine fever (ASF), according to the president of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

Dr. Mark Schipp, from Australia, made the announcement yesterday, Thursday, October 31, saying that authorities were struggling to deal with the spread of the disease.

According to a report in German media outlet DW, Dr. Schipp argued that the current ASF epidemic is the “biggest threat to the commercial raising of pigs we’ve ever seen”.

Dr. Schipp outlined that such a steep drop in the world’s pig population could result in possible food shortages and high pork prices.

He also warned of a possible fall in the availability of heparin, a blood-thinning medication for humans that is derived from the tissue of slaughtered pigs.

The OIE president highlighted that, as China and other countries with ASF outbreaks begins to purchase protein from abroad, prices of meat will be pushed up.

“There are some shortages in some countries, and there’s been some substitutions using other sources of protein, which is driving up the prices of other proteins,” Dr. Schipp observed.

He also highlighted that trade tariffs and barriers was exacerbating the problem, arguing that such regulations and quality checks were enticing people to seek “riskier sources”.

“Those casing products move through multiple countries… They’re cleaned in one, graded in another, sorted in another, partially treated in another, and finally treated in a fourth or fifth country. They’re very hard to trace through so many countries,” Dr. Schipp stressed.

He also highlighted that the virus is very “large and complex”, making it difficult to develop an effective vaccine, despite the progress that has been made.