Emergency Animal Disease Alerts - Vol. 7 Issue 2 - August 2013

African swine fever (ASF)

FAO has expressed concern that the ASF epizootic in the Caucasus could affect European countries. In 2007 an ASF epizootic commenced in Georgia and since 2009, 550 outbreaks have been reported in domestic pigs and wild boar across Russia. ASF was then reported in the Ukraine in July 2012 and in Belarus in June 2013.

No vaccine for ASF is available and the control measures implemented include the destruction of sick and exposed pigs, quarantine of premises and movement restrictions on pigs and pig products.

One possible control measure proposed was fencing along the entire border between Russia and Belarus and the countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This was seen to be a way to limit the movement of wild boars but not the tick vectors. However the expense and logistics are likely to prevent the project.

Porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED)

Porcine epidemic diarrhoea (PED) virus, a coronavirus, was first described in the UK in 1971 and has since spread to Europe and Asia where it is considered endemic. It can kill 80-100% of piglets, but adults typically recover. It does not infect humans. Once herds become immune outbreaks are reported less frequently. Virus is spread by the faecal-oral route. In May PED virus was diagnosed in Iowa, USA, as the cause of high mortality in piglets less than 3 weeks old. Retrospective testing indicated the virus had been present since mid April 2013. Since then it has spread to 19 states. Although the source has not been determined, it is closely related to a Chinese strain of PED virus. However the USA and Canada do not import pigs from China. No vaccine is currently available in USA.

Researchers tested trucks for the presence of virus transporting pigs to slaughter. They found that for every contaminated trailer that arrived at the plants, 1.2 contaminated trailers left the sites, moving the virus to new, previously uncontaminated locations. Other work has revealed that feed may be associated with the spread of infection. On farm biosecurity measures are important in preventing entry of infection. PED needs to be differentiated from transmissible gastroenteritis. http://www.promedmail.org

Schmallenberg virus (SBV) update

Serological evidence of SBV infection was recently reported in a dog in Sweden. This is the first time SBV has been reported in a non-ruminant species.

SBV has spread to northern Europe (Scotland, Scandinavia, Norway, Finland and Sweden) and eastern Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Greece and possibly Romania).

The OIE in May 2013 agreed to a review of SBV according to the OIE criteria for disease listing.

SBV has been detected by PCR in cattle, sheep, goats, fallow deer, roe deer, red deer, buffaloes, alpacas, moose and bison.

SBV has caused trade disruptions between Europe and Russia and between Austria and Kazakhstan.

A vaccine, Bovilis(R)SBV, targeting SBV has been released by MSD Animal Health in the UK.

Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP)

CBPP remains a major disease in cattle in West Africa and the Sahel, where the migration of pastoralists is customary. Infection spreads at locations such as Lake Chad, where herds graze and co-mingle before re-dispersing. In 2012 CBPP appeared in Gambia for the first time since 1971, resulting in the death of about 10,000 cattle. Slaughter of infected cattle to control the disease is complicated by the great economic cost to the individual owner. Recent cases have been reported in Guinea. The OIE is encouraging the Economic Community of West African States to develop a regional approach to CBPP control. But funds are limited.

Note: In May 2013 Australia, Botswana, China, India, Portugal Switzerland and the United States were officially recognised by the OIE as free from CBPP. These countries have been free from CBPP for some time.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)

In the last issue, we reported on the novel coronavirus which appeared in the Middle East in 2012. Now called MERS-CoV, it has been confirmed in 155 human cases with 64 deaths.

Work has focussed on trying to determine the source of this virus. Bats are suspected to be the reservoir host.

A recent paper has reported that a serosurvey of domestic animals has revealed titres to MERS-CoV in 100% of tested dromedary camels in Oman and 14% of camels tested in the Canary Islands. No virus was recovered from the camels. No antibodies were detected in cattle, sheep, goats, llamas or alpacas that were tested in various countries.

Further One Health investigations are now required in the Arabian Peninsula to confirm if human cases had direct or indirect contact with camels and what the role of camels is in the spread of MERS CoV.

Lumpy skin disease (LSD)

The current LSD epizootic in cattle continues in Israel, Palestine (West Bank) and now Jordan in June 2013 and Turkey in September 2013.

Equine herpesvirus (EHV) infection

In 2010 in Wuppertal zoo in Germany, one polar bear died of encephalitis and another became seriously ill but recovered. Investigations revealed that the virus responsible was a zebra-derived EHV, which contained DNA from EHV1 and EHV9. The bears had no direct contact with the zebras. This virus was shown to be the cause of the death of another polar bear at a different zoo some years earlier. Evidence of this virus infecting another 9 bears was reported. Some of the bears were from other zoos and there was no evidence of direct contact.

Eastern equine encephalomyelitis (EEE)

A recent study of wild snakes caught in North America revealed their importance in the transmission of EEE. It showed the virus circulates in snake blood and that viraemia can be detected in the spring. Snakes may play a role in the over-wintering and early seasonal amplification of the virus.

Recent publications

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently posted a new fact sheet on ABLV and handling bats.

Animal Health Australia’s EAD foundation online course has been updated. You can enrol online at Animal Health Australia.

The Australian Veterinary Association’s Guidelines for Veterinary Personal Biosecurity have been updated and the second edition is available.


New diseases do occur. Each time we examine an animal and the clinical signs are not typical of what we expect to see in that species in our area, we need to include exotic diseases in our list of differential diagnoses. You may be looking at the first case and you do not want to become famous as the vet who missed it!

Use the hotline number 1800 675 888 as hundreds of your colleagues do each year. You are not alone.

Stop press

On 17 July 2013 Taiwan advised OIE that rabies had been diagnosed retrospectively in wild ferret badgers. Prior to that, Taiwan had been free from rabies since 1959. Since the July notification, rabies has been reported in 198 ferret badgers, one house shrew and a young puppy. The widespread nature of the reports and recent investigations indicate that the infection may have been present since 2010. Vaccination of dogs and cats has commenced. Animal Biosecurity Australia changed Taiwan’s classification from category 2 to category 4 for the importation of pet animals.

A multinational team of scientists recently reported the discovery of a new virulent fungus, Aspergillus felis, which has been detected in cats, 2 humans and a dog in Australia and the United Kingdom. There was only a 15% survival rate in the cats and infections have so far proved fatal in the humans.