Monday, 20 May 2013

PED Virus found in Iowa hog population

Reuters reports a “new” pig disease, PEDV, porcine epidemic diarrhoea, hitting Iowa.

The disease is common elsewhere, but hitherto the Americas have been clear.

It raises some interesting comparisons with the British handling of continuous, and continuing, outbreaks and epidemics of animal and zoonotic disease.

Many are of these are emerging diseases and new strains, especially, although by no means exclusively,infect pigs, and more disturbingly, sometimes people.

Britain and her government veterinarians have repeatedly handled such incursions and outbreaks, by firstly, no doubt reasonably, saying that they did not know the route of importation, coupled with a less convincing assurance, that there is no risk to human health.

But, they also quickly make it clear that it came from overseas, the word “foreign” usually appears, sometimes with a possible source.

Very soon, the economic consequences for the home industry are expressed as dire and speculation on the method of arrival begins.

The most likely route of importation – legal imports of germplasm (that’s live animals, semen or embryos) under veterinary control and supervision is never mentioned or contemplated.

Any suggestion that it was imported by accident by veterinarians arriving home from conferences abroad, often including visits to foreign pig farms is missing from public pronouncements. Any chance that it spreads domestically from farm to farm by veterinarians moving about is ignored.

Yet illegal immigrants are quickly suggested by the farming media, briefed by the veterinary industry, as a likely source, despite the fact that the farmers usually legally employ the immigrant workers.

Foreign boots and hot breath become riskier than white boots, bio suits and peppermint flavoured assurances.

Then somehow, the media gets hold of wilder theories: inadequate import controls, lax border inspections, anything will do, however unlikely. Preferably the government is to blame and must compensate  farmers for both losses and treatment.

Illegally imported infected meat is often claimed to be to blame. Although why anyone would import such material is ignored, as is the route onto the farms and to the livestock.

Co-infections flourish on even those animals sick with viruses, and veterinarians feed antibiotics to fend off or treat. Antibiotic resistance develops and flourishes.

Then as a solution, protectionism steps in to solve the falling farm incomes and to protect public health from “foreign rubbish.” That policy has the added bonus of increasing domestic prices.

Hang-on, we have been here before – the Great Depression. This time, there is the added misery of antibiotic resistance seeping into the hospitals.

You can see the picture developing in Iowa.

Let’s see if Iowa can break the mould and take a lesson from history.

 You can read the Reuters' report in full here.

Virus found in Iowa hog population, possibly beyond