History’s a good reason to step up biosecurity

It is good to have short memories, but we also need to have some recall so as not to repeat errors of the past.

The emergence of Seneca Valley Virus, or Senecavirus A, last summer raised awareness for hog producers because the symptoms of Senecavirus A mirror those of foot-and-mouth disease. Producers who find erosions, ulcerations and vesicular lesions of the snout, oral mucosa, and distal limbs, especially around the coronary band are to contact their herd veterinarian, who in turn needs to contact the state or federal animal health official.

Presence of Senecavirus on a farm is not a deal breaker, but it’s imperative that producers, their veterinarian and animal health officials rule out the presence of FMD.

FMD has not been in the United States since 1929, and we want to keep it that way. FMD is one of the most economically damaging animal diseases in the world and currently exists in more than 100 countries.

An article posted Wednesday on the BBC News Magazine website looks back when the United Kingdom experienced an FMD outbreak in 2001. There were 2,000 official cases of FMD that year, and by the end of September that year when the last FMD case was confirmed, more than 6 million pigs, sheep and cattle had been disposed of. The culling policy spread beyond the affected farms to animals in the surrounding area.

Images of the piles of thousands of dead and burning livestock are still vivid, and we were a half a world away. I remember those images, and stories from the UK were heartbreaking, I can’t even imagine being on the ground, experiencing that firsthand.

It is estimated the FMD outbreak cost the public sector over £3 billion ($4,291,950,000 U.S.) and the private sector more than £5 billion ($7,153,250,000 U.S.), and that doesn’t take into account the emotional toll that it took on the producers who had to see their livelihood disappear in flames.

According to research by Dustin Pendell, a Kansas State University economist, if FMD broke out in the U.S. Midwest losses to producers and consumers would total approximately $188 billion and additional government losses at $11 billion due to controlling livestock movement and depopulating infected livestock. Again, that doesn’t account for the emotional strain on producers.

FMD is only one disease that could bring the U.S. hog industry to its knees. The Swine Health Information Center just issued a prioritized list of pathogens of threat on a Swine Disease Matrix, assessing foreign and transboundary production disease risk.

Research continues for a way to prevent such diseases from reaching the U.S. swine herd, as well what to do if they, God forbid, do indeed reach our herds.

In the time being, stay vigilant on monitoring your pigs and stick to employing stringent biosecurity measures. Also, take a look back in time, back to the UK to see why we don’t want to experience such an outbreak here.

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