The Washington Department of Agriculture has declared an emergency rule to keep porcine epidemic diarrhea virus out.
All swine entering the state must carry evidence the animals are free of virus. The rule is effective immediately and will remain in force for at least 120 days.
The virus has not yet entered the state, acting state veterinarian Paul Kohrs said. But in recent weeks, cases were reported in neighboring Idaho and Montana, he said.
It’s also the season for 4-H and FFA members to obtain their show pigs, some of which come from out of state.
“We wanted to see if we could put some kind of credibility to the health certificates that they’ve been checked out,” Kohrs said.
All animals that enter the state, including pigs, are already required to have a health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian stating the animal is disease free, according to the department.
Certificates for swine entering Washington now must include a statement that they have not originated from premises known to be affected by and have not been exposed to the virus within the last 30 days.
The certificate must be signed by the animal owner as well as a veterinarian.
There is no public health risk because the disease cannot be spread to humans or other animals.
Causes of the virus are still uncertain, Kohrs said.
“There’s some indication that it may be spread in feed, but that’s certainly not confirmed,” he said. “We know it survives really well on fomites like trucks and travel trailers. It’s a pretty hardy virus. We don’t know where it’s coming from.”
Fomites are objects or materials likely to carry infection.
Kohrs hopes to boost awareness of the situation and encourages farmers to be careful about the source of pigs they bring to their farm.
“The best thing you can do is ask where the truck has been, do some of your own biosecurity when you have visitors coming,” he said. “Ask where they’ve been, if they’ve been on other premises where they’ve had pigs.”
The virus is relatively mild in adult pigs, with a slight fever, some diarrhea and eventual recovery after a few days. Adult pigs could be carrying the virus without symptoms and bring it back home after picking it up in a commingled setting.
There’s a risk any time pigs are together, Kohrs said.
He recommends that fair superintendents find an alternative to gathering pigs together for spring weigh-in or tagging activities before events.
“Any time you can avoid the commingling of pigs, you’re going to lessen the risk,” he said.
Death rates are highest in younger pigs, less than 3 weeks old.
“If they’ve had a farrowing event on their farm and they’ve lost a lot of pigs, I’d be real concerned that (PED virus) may be what you’re dealing with,” Kohrs said. “In the farrowing setting, where there’s litters of pigs, it can take out a whole barn. It spreads that quickly. That’s why we don’t want to have it here.”