PEDV a Warning Sign for Other Diseases to Come

Wisconsin State Veterinarian Paul McGraw said the impact the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) has had on the swine industry should be a wake-up call as to how vulnerable the U.S. livestock industry is to disease coming here from other countries.

McGraw recently spoke to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Board, telling board members it was conclusive that PEDV was brought to the United States from China, and it became more obvious that the same thing could happen with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) that has devastated agricultural industries in other parts of the world.

McGraw says, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, genetic coding confirmed the PEDV strain that has caused the death of 7 million baby pigs in the United States is the same strain as in China, the only place that strain had been found in the past. McGraw went on to say that Chief USDA Veterinarian John Clifford has concluded the virus was less likely to have been transmitted by feed and more likely by an individual.

Spread of the disease might have been minimized if a stop-movement order would have been placed on hogs after the first positive test was confirmed, McGraw says, but admits hindsight is always pretty clear. McGraw says the disease is believed to have killed about 10% of the nation’s swine herd since May 2013, when it was first reported.

McGraw said DATCP officials have participated in “Secure Milk Supply” emergency management exercises to discuss with industry, government and stakeholder organizations how milk would be moved in Wisconsin in the midst of a serious disease outbreak such as FMD. He says the challenge is to get people thinking in those terms ‑ if PEDV can come here from China, so can FMD or African Swine Fever.

DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel said there have been discussions that animal diseases could even be moved from one country to another in a person’s nasal passages, adding that the disease could be dormant in the person carrying it, but could be created when it hits the “right vector.”

McGraw also took the opportunity to suggest that Wisconsin farmers and agribusiness employers screen their immigrant workers for tuberculosis (TB) exposure after a confirmed case of reverse zoonosis of TB from a human to cattle in North Dakota. In the North Dakota case, an immigrant worker was sick and went to a public health facility for treatment. He was diagnosed with a strain of TB that could be transmitted from humans to cattle. Only about 1 percent of TB strains are the type that can be transmitted to livestock, McGraw says.

Two heifers on the farm where he worked were consequently diagnosed with bovis TB, McGraw says. He suggests the ag industry work with public health officials to develop a protocol to be prepared for such situations. 

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