For centuries, African swine fever virus has circulated between ticks and warthogs in Africa as part of a natural lifecycle, occasionally spilling over to domestic pigs. The virus became a global concern when it left the continent and spread to the Iberian Peninsula—twice in the mid-20th century. The second time, it traveled across the Atlantic to the Americas. These outbreaks were successfully quelled through strict eradication programs, but a devastating epidemic now spreading across Asia has intensified global research into understanding ASFV and finding a way to stop it.

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Katarina Zimmer is a New York–based freelance journalist. Find her on Twitter @katarinazimmer.

Correction (January 17): The top image for this story has been corrected to identify the blue arrows as relating to a period from 2007 to present day. The Scientist regrets the error.

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