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Horse owners are familiar with a Coggins test—that piece of paper required for entry into most horse shows and sales and/or for interstate horse transport. But many overlook the fact that this piece of paper, which serves as proof that the horses has tested negative for equine infectious anemia (EIA), is essential to protecting the health of the national equine population. A number of recent EIA positives in racing Quarter Horse populations in California and Texas has increased the need for awareness about this potentially fatal blood borne disease of horses, donkeys, and mules.
Also known as swamp fever, EIA is caused by a virus closely related to the human immunodeficiency virus (commonly known as HIV). The equine condition might not cause any outward clinical signs, or they can be apparent, ranging from fever and lethargy to weight loss; anemia; and swelling of the legs, chest, and abdomen.
Natural disease transmission occurs when a deerfly or horsefly bites an infected horse, consumes a blood meal, and transfers the virus to another horse. People can also introduce the virus to a naive horse via the use of infected blood or blood products or through the use of blood-contaminated needles, syringes, surgical instruments, dental equipment, tattooing equipment, or any other equipment. Infected horses become lifelong carriers that pose a risk of infection to other horses. There is no known treatment for EIA. The options for managing an EIA-positive horse are euthanasia or lifelong quarantine of the individual horse at least 200 yards from unaffected horses.
Recently, the California Department of Food and Agriculture's (CDFA) Animal Health Branch has been investigating the largest EIA outbreak in that state in years. Since 2012 diagnostic testing confirmed 34 racing Quarter Horses, ranging in age from 3 to 8 years, as positive for EIA. The investigation identified approximately 250 exposed horses on 19 California premises that tested negative on the initial and 60-day retest after removal of the positive horse. Thirty-three of the EIA-positive horses were euthanized and one was moved to a premises for isolation.
Disease investigations indicate the positive horses were involved in Quarter Horse racing and potentially were exposed to high-risk practices such as sharing needles and other medical equipment and the use of contaminated blood products. Due to change of ownership, lack of lip tattoos, and difficulty reading lip tattoos, the training and racing histories of positive horses were hard to obtain.
Although difficult to verify, evidence suggests that some of the positive horses participated in unsanctioned “bush track” racing. Evidence points to disease spread via contaminated multi-dose drug vials. In this situation, the contamination occurred when a new needle and used syringe are used for drug administration—infected blood in the hub of the used syringe contaminates the drug vial, resulting in disease spread with subsequent withdrawal of the drug and administration.
So should area horse owners be worried about EIA? The recent upswing in positive EIA cases in the racing Quarter Horse population is a cause for concern, as many retired racehorses with the potential to spread EIA enter second careers in the breeding shed, rodeo world, show arena, or as backyard pleasure, trail, or ranch horses. Given the right conditions, one undetected case can lead to a large regional, national, or international outbreak. All horse owners are encouraged to establish and adhere to good biosecurity practices and avoid sharing needles, syringes, blood, or blood products among horses.
Owners concerned with potential exposure to EIA should contact their veterinarian to discuss serologic (blood) testing. The two most commonly used serologic tests are the agar gel immunodiffusion (AGID) and the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the former of which is known as the Coggins test. A positive test indicates the presence of EIA-specific antibodies in the horse's blood. The ELISA test can detect antibodies earlier than the AGID test but, because the ELISA test can produce false positive results, the confirmatory test for EIA is the AGID.
For more information visit http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/Animal_Health/EquineInfectiousAnemia.html or contact Katie Flynn, BVMS, equine staff veterinarian for the CDFA Animal Health Branch, at 916/900-5039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A brave giraffe embarked on a long journey to a new home on Wednesday, travelling from her home at Taronga Western Plains Zoo to the National Zoo in Canberra.
Mzungu the giraffe was chauffeured in style in an oversized flatbed semi-trailer for more than five hours in a major transport operation, watching curiously from her vantage point as she was driven carefully interstate.
Mzungu was carefully acclimated to the crate before being settled inside, and then winched onto the semi-trailer where she was able to see the world as it went by.
'She travelled brilliantly, she was really settled. We couldn't have asked for a better move,' said Trent Russell, director of the National Zoo.
'I followed the truck and it was funny to see people's reactions. They would do a double take as they weren't expecting to see a giraffe on the road,' Mr Russell said.
Mr Russell oversaw Mzungu's trip, stopping at regular intervals to ensure that she was comfortable and content throughout the day.
'Transporting a Giraffe anywhere is a major logistical operation and one that the team at Taronga Western Plains Zoo has undertaken on numerous occasions,' said Pascale Benoit, the supervisor for the operation.
'There is a lot of planning that takes place prior to the transportation of an animal to ensure everything goes to plan, from the loading here in Dubbo to the unloading at Canberra,' Ms Benoit said.
'Over the past few months Mzungu has been conditioned to stand in a transport crate comfortably for her journey,' she said.
The National Zoo already has a large zebra breeding program but was interested in starting a giraffe breeding program, which will hopefully commence when Mzungu's partner arrives in a few months.
Ms Benoit said that Taronga Zoo's successful breeding program meant that they were able to transfer giraffes both interstate and overseas to encourage greater genetic diversity in zoo-based populations.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo now has nine Giraffe in the breeding herd and four males on the African Savannah.
Mr Russell said that they had expected Mzungu to poke her head out and look around during the trip.
'She was very curious, this is all new to her as she's young and hasn't been out and about before,' Mr Russell said.
'She wasn't bothered by the travel and even though she's only just been unloaded she' settling in and eating,' he said.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located in Dubbo, NSW and is open every day. For more information visit Taronga Zoo's website.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2939030/Wonder-stopped-soft-serve-Incredible-pictures-giraffe-transported-FIVE-hours-trailer-Dubbo-Canberra-breed.html#ixzz3SJAEF76g
The company will be the first in North America to install a HatchCare incubator in a hatchery
HatchTech and the Canadian-based poultry cooperative Synergy Agri Group Inc. signed an agreement for the delivery of a complete new hatchery facility that will be equipped with HatchCare. The agreement was announced at the 2015 International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE).
HatchCare is an incubator that offers newly hatched chicks immediate access to feed and water. With the agreement, Synergy Agri Group will be the first company in North America to install HatchCare in a hatchery.
"With HatchCare, we know that the hatched chicks will be immediately supplied with the basic necessities of life -- feed and water," said Ron Testroete, director, Synergy Agri Group Inc. "This results in a lower mortality rate and decreased need for antibiotics and other medicine throughout the life of the chicks.”
Dr. Fidelis Hegngi briefed United Egg Producers’ members on the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in California and the Pacific Northwest.
The H5N8 strain of avian influenza isolated on a California turkey farm is highly pathogenic for turkeys, said Dr. Fidelis Hegngi, senior staff veterinarian, USDA APHIS.
The current outbreak of highly-pathogenic avian influenza in British Columbia, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest of the United States is associated with wild bird migration in the Pacific flyway, said Dr. Fidelis Hegngi, senior staff veterinarian, U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. He told the audience of the United Egg Producers’ Board meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, that the first case of avian influenza found in wild birds in Washington State, on December 8, 2014, was genetically identical to the H5N2 avian influenza virus found earlier in British Columbia, Canada. He said that the H5 was of Eurasian lineage and the N2 was North American lineage, which indicated that there has been re-assortment of the viruses from the two continents.
Hegngi said that an avian influenza virus found on December 16, 2014, in Washington State was an H5N8 of Eurasian lineage. Subsequently, avian influenza was found in wild birds, backyard chicken flocks and guinea fowls, and in captive raptors in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
On January 23, an H5N8 avian influenza outbreak was confirmed on a Foster Farms turkey ranch in California. This is the first instance of the virus being found in a commercial flock in the U.S. in this outbreak. Hegngi said that this strain is particularly pathogenic for turkeys and that the mortality was extremely high in the first house that broke with the virus. The ranch is a large one, and it housed nearly 145,000 hens and toms at the time of the outbreak. All of the birds either died from the disease or were euthanized. Hegngi said that Foster will be indemnified for the value of the birds.
Hegngi implored egg producers to be vigilant and “follow strict biosecurity practices and raise your birds in very controlled environments.” He said, “What should an egg producer be doing? Biosecurity, biosecurity, biosecurity."
Mass euthanasia on egg farms is still a challenge, Hegngi reported. He said that foaming techniques developed for use on floor housed broilers and turkeys hasn’t really worked well for caged layers, but that a system in development at Mississippi State University using compressed air foaming on cages which have a manure belt under them to hold the foam has shown promise. He said that this system will likely need to use carbon dioxide in the gas mix to ensure humane euthanasia.
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Great care was taken by staff at Living Coasts to ensure two large, exotic and venomous stingrays were safely transported to the continent.
The blue spotted ribbon tail ray, Taeniura lymma, is capable of injuring humans with its venomous tail spines, so keepers from Torquay's coastal zoo had to wear special venom defender gloves throughout the move.
However, Living Coasts Operations Manager Clare Rugg, said that their biggest concern was making sure the tropical fish stayed warm during the journey to Antwerp Zoo and to Pairi Daiza, in Brugelette, in Belguim.
She said: "The fish were moved from an off-show holding tank into a tub so that they could be checked over by the vet - a special heater was placed in the tub to keep the water warm.
"After that they were put into new warm salt water inside a special fish transport bag and triple bagged for safety. Then it was into a polystyrene transport case with heat pads in the base. Oxygen was added to the bag to keep the fish going through the journey.
"The move went very smoothly and the fish arrived safely."
Before the fish could go anywhere, Clare had to complete all the paperwork for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, which is part of DEFRA and which regulates the import and export of live fish.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed this species as Near Threatened, as it faces widespread habitat degradation and intensive fishing pressure throughout its range. These individuals are all part of a European breeding program and were chosen to be genetically matched with different males in the other collections.
Clare added: "We have a very successful breeding population at Living Coasts and more will be moving on soon. But, the day these rays left, two more were born."
Read more: http://www.torquayheraldexpress.co.uk/Venomous-stingrays-Living-Coasts/story-25943141-detail/story.html
REGINA — As Saskatchewan’s livestock producers ride a wave of relatively good prices, the provincial government is putting $3.8 million into research intended to help keep them there.
“Research helps us to raise livestock more efficiently and more profitably — and just better in terms of our treatment of livestock,” provincial agriculture minister Lyle Stewart, himself a veteran cattleman, said after announcing it at the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Conference in Regina.
Third-party groups like SaskMilk, Sask Pork and the Western Grains Research Foundation are putting another $1.2 million into this research.
“Every dollar spent on research is an added profit to the industry at some point,” said Paula Larson, chair of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, who added the SCA is “always happy” to contribute to such research through its industry check-off.
The 30 research projects range from improving cow and calf performance through diet to new forage crop lines that extend the spring grazing seasons, plus options for recycling baler twine and netwrap.
There’s also DNA genotyping for bulls and earlier diagnosis of ergot poisoning in cattle.
Three separate projects will look at controlling porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED), a virus that doesn’t pose a risk to human health or food safety, but can cause a significant number of deaths in pig herds.
In the U.S., for example, Department of Agriculture statistics from 2013 indicate the number of hogs slaughtered fell to 92.09 million through Nov. 15, down from 97.17 million in the same period a year earlier — all because of smaller herds linked to PED.
Around the same time, the federal and Saskatchewan governments gave $150,000 to SaskPork for the Saskatchewan Swine Biosecurity Program, which aims to prevent the spread of PED during the transport of Saskatchewan hogs. That supplemented money earlier allotted for PED prevention that focused on truck washing, transport audits by certified veterinarians, and education on transport biosecurity.
PED was identified at about a dozen locations in Ontario last year. Stewart said it’s been found in Manitoba — though not in Saskatchewan.
Money for the research comes from the province’s Agriculture Development Fund, which is financed on a 60-40 basis by the federal and provincial governments. Earlier this year, Stewart said the ADF would invest $6.9 million into 42 crop-related projects.
Working on the research announced Wednesday will be the University of Saskatchewan, the Western Beef Development Centre, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, the Vaccine Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Prairie Swine Centre.
Read more: http://www.leaderpost.com/technology/Livestock+research+gets+boost/10749040/story.html#ixzz3SJ6vKDd9
The government’s long-awaited review of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) has been released today, and according to federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, it indicates Australia is “a clear world leader in the welfare of exported live animals”.
Mr Joyce said the report contained data which shows more than 99 per cent of livestock exported have experienced a positive welfare outcome since comprehensive welfare standards spanning the entire supply chain were introduced in 2011.
He said it also showed that in nine of Australia’s 18 live export markets there were no incidents that impacted animal welfare.
In the other nine markets, according to the report, the incidents involved an estimated 0.002 to 1.58pc of the animals Australia exported to those markets.
Mr Joyce said the report also showed that since the ESCAS system was introduced, 8,035,633 livestock were exported with just 12,958 animals – or 0.16pc – experiencing a potentially adverse animal welfare outcome.
“These are very strong results that show that the system is working,” he said.
“However, everyone would agree that improving animal welfare outcomes continues to be a challenge.”
According to figures quoted in the report – recorded up to November last year - Australia exported eight million head of livestock to 18 countries in 1139 consignments, with only 22 incidents of animal welfare concern, since ESCAS’s introduction.
“Despite the challenges ESCAS has posed and the need for improvements, it has delivered significant outcomes,” the report’s summary said.
“Trade has continued, when it may have otherwise been limited or even phased out entirely.
“Awareness of animal welfare issues, and of their importance, in livestock handling and slaughter facilities overseas has been improved and ESCAS has provided a valuable source of previously unreported data about the movement and the treatment of animals.
“However, these benefits may also be able to be provided under a more efficient system than the one currently in place.”
Further reform opportunities
The summary cited several opportunities to implement further reforms that would meet ESCAS’s objectives while maintaining animal welfare standards and facilitating trade.
These include clearer guidelines for describing and managing non-compliance and clarifying third-party complaint processes; allowing the sharing of audits for the same facilities or supply chains, which will remove duplication, reduce costs and improve opportunities for co-operation between individual exporters; and recognising opportunities for industry to take greater responsibility for proactively managing the risks within supply chains.
“Implementation of these reforms, along with ongoing evaluation of export processes and identification of further opportunities for improvement may assist the Department of Agriculture to develop a more efficient and cost effective system for ensuring welfare of exported livestock,” the report said.
A controversial system
ESCAS was introduced into Australia’s live animal export markets following the controversial 2011 Indonesian live cattle export ban by the former Labor government.
The initial review of the enhanced animal welfare system was recommended by the extensive farmer inquiry which also resulted from the sudden trade suspension.
Under ESCAS, exporters must establish supply chain arrangements that deliver animal welfare outcomes according to internationally agreed OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) standards.
The ESCAS review report was originally due to be tabled on September 30 last year after gathering stakeholder feedback, including from animal welfare organisations.
However, its release was delayed due to the volume of collaboration required, in particular with stakeholders in importing countries, to research the first review into the system's effectiveness.
The report said 60 stakeholders from across the supply chain were invited to make submissions during its development, with thirty-six received.
“Views were varied, but the majority of stakeholders said they believe that ESCAS has been a step in the right direction to improve animal welfare,” it said.
“However, opinions differ about whether ESCAS is merely a good first step or has substantially resolved the problems with animal welfare, with the focus now being on continuous improvement and refinement.”
Mr Joyce said since the Coalition government came to office in September 2013 the value of live animal exports has amounted to $1.4 billion and “is continuing to break new ground”.
He said government and industry are continuing to work with the nation’s trading partners to enhance animal handling and husbandry skills and improve animal welfare outcomes and has trained more than 7000 people to date.
“Industry is continually helping to upgrade facilities in-country to meet international animal welfare standards and our shared commitment to this work is ongoing,” he said.
The report said a total of 866 establishments in 19 countries (including facilities in one country yet to receive ESCAS livestock) had been independently audited as being OIE compliant.
It also said the rate of pre-slaughter stunning had increased – citing the example of over 80pc of facilities in Indonesia that now receive pre-slaughter stunning, an Australian cattle processing practice.
The report also said from implementation of ESCAS in 2011 to November 30 last year, there have been 59 incidents of non-compliance with ESCAS requirements confirmed by the Department of Agriculture.
Of those, 47pc were detected by the Department; 31pc self-reported by exporters; and 22pc reported by others.
It also said 37 of those incidents related to issues where there was no direct animal welfare impact “but instead were problems with control, traceability or auditing arrangements”.
“Of these, 23 were for movement of livestock outside the supply chain nominated on the ESCAS paperwork to facilities that have been audited and are OIE compliant, with no compromise of animal welfare,” the report said.
“While ESCAS has done much to improve animal welfare outcomes, it has not meant that every animal has been slaughtered in line with OIE standards.
“Of the millions of animals exported under ESCAS there have been 22 identified incidents of non-compliance where the animal welfare outcome was either adverse or unknown.
“Most of the identified incidents involved multiple animals, up to several thousand in one instance.
“In these cases corrective action has been taken to mitigate against further incidents.”
The report also said extending the government’s regulatory reach internationally through ESCAS “poses challenges for compliance and enforcement”.
“Possible breaches of animal handling standards, reports of improper slaughter techniques and loss of animals from supply chains have been difficult for the Department of Agriculture to investigate,” it said.
“Where breaches can be traced, conditions have been imposed on exporters to mitigate and prevent recurrence within a supply chain.
“The ESCAS framework applies a single consistent system to all importing countries, regardless of the significant differences in terms of species exported, transportation method, seasonality, and demand drivers that apply.
“The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach of ESCAS does not allow importing countries’ regulations or positive improvements made by exporters or markets to be taken into account.”
Impact on trade
The report also cited concerns that were raised when ESCAS was introduced about its potential impact on trade and opportunities for Australian producers.
It said international trade is affected by numerous factors such as price, exchange rate, competition, market-specific issues, domestic policies and commercial factors.
“Among these factors it is difficult to distinguish the impact ESCAS specifically had on trade,” the report said.
“Cattle exports declined prior to the introduction of ESCAS but rebounded to record levels in 2013–14.
“Total trade volume of sheep has been declining since 2005–06 and has continued to decline following the introduction of ESCAS.
“Some difficulties in maintaining individual markets under ESCAS have been experienced.
“The last consignment to Saudi Arabia occurred in 2012 and it has not been possible to reopen that market under ESCAS,” the report said.
“Conversely, ESCAS has enabled the trade in live sheep to Egypt, which ceased in 2006, to recommence.
“New markets have been opened under ESCAS including Vietnam, Iran, Cambodia, Thailand and Lebanon.
“Despite its successes, the regulatory model for ESCAS is complex and imposes costs of over $17.6 million a year on government and the industry.
“The question remains whether the same gains in animal welfare could have been made through a simpler, clearer and ultimately cheaper system.”
End the misleading attacks: Joyce
Mr Joyce said recommendations from the ESCAS report would support continual animal welfare improvement in the nation’s live export industries.
“What this review clearly demonstrates is that Australian livestock exported overseas are treated humanely in almost every instance and in accordance with international animal welfare standards,” he said.
“With that in mind, critics of the live export trade should end irrational and misleading attacks on importing countries that welcome Australian cattle and sheep, and who rely on Australia as an important source of high quality, reliable and safe protein.
“This industry is directly improving returns at the farmgate through increased domestic competition – indeed the record prices we are seeing in saleyards across the country right now can at least in part be attributed to the strong demand from our live export markets.
“The Australian Government made a commitment to reduce red tape for primary producers.
“Now that we know that the ESCAS system is effective, the government will work to ensure it is delivered as efficiently as possible,” he said.
“Based on the recommendations from this report, we will examine opportunities to implement clearer compliance guidelines, remove duplication of audit activities and introduce greater industry responsibility for risk management.
“The Coalition government is fully committed to the trade and I am proud of the fact that since we have been in office we have opened six new markets for live cattle and sheep – Egypt, Bahrain, Iran, Cambodia, Thailand and Lebanon – and we are intent on continuing that trend.”
ESCAS was 'bold move': Crean
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) welcomed the government’s report into ESCAS and the significant improvements to the welfare of Australian exported livestock and local livestock in export markets.
According to chairman of ALEC Simon Crean, in just two years of full ESCAS application the Australian livestock export trade has made huge inroads into improving animal welfare outcomes and placed the trade on a stronger footing to support its ongoing vital economic and job-sustaining role in regional Australia.
“In 2011, the industry was in a difficult and dark place and facing its greatest challenge yet. The implementation of ESCAS – a world first attempt to manage the welfare of exported livestock along supply chains beyond our borders where significant welfare issues had been identified – was a bold move by the then government and an incredible test of live exporters relationship with downstream customers,” Mr Crean said.
Cattle Council of Australia president Howard Smith agreed that ESCAS was a courageous plan: “The initial implementation of ESCAS, in reaction to appalling animal handling of cattle in Indonesia, seemed tough, but when you look at the overwhelming improvements of conditions for Australian cattle in market, it was a necessary step.”
In everybody's interests: NFF
National Farmers Federation (NFF) president Brent Finlay said the federal government’s ESCAS report showed that while the system is not without fault, it has achieved remarkable improvements in animal welfare in a short time.
“No-one wants animals to suffer and it’s in everybody’s interest that community expectations around animal welfare are met,” he said.
According to Mr Finlay, more than 100 countries export livestock around the world, but Australia is the only livestock exporting nation that regulates animal welfare standards throughout the entire supply chain, “all the way across the oceans”.
“Australia is also the only one investing in delivering animal welfare skills to people working in the supply chain,” he said.
“Live export supply chain participants have worked tirelessly to meet the standards that have been set.”
Sheepmeat Council of Australia (SCA) president Jeff Murray also acknowledged the importance of the live export trade to Australian producers.
“The live sheep export trade is essential to the livelihoods of thousands of Australian sheep meat producers. Through ESCAS and the work of the industry, the regulatory system has ensured the continuation of the trade across many international markets, which is good for our producers who rely on market competition and diversity to drive higher farmgate returns,” he said.
John F. Kennedy Airport in New York will be home to a $48m animal cargo facility, set to open in the first quarter of 2016.
Air travel can be such a nightmare, but one airport is determined to improve the experience… for animals, that is.
John F. Kennedy Airport is set to open the first privately-owned animal terminal in the world. It will be called, naturally, The Ark.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has signed a 30-year lease deal with Ark Development, an affiliate of the real estate company Racebrook Capital, to design and build a 178,000-square-foot animal cargo facility at the Queens, New York-based airport.
The $48m (£31.6m) project will create 180 jobs and generate $108m in revenues over its 30-year span, the organisers said.
“For the animals who [will] pass through The Ark, as well as the people who own them, air travel can be stressful and confusing,” said Cliff Bollmann, an architect at Gensler, one of the firms designing the facility. “Aligning the needs of quarantine with kennelling and elevating the experience for animals and their owners, our design team sought to create a comfortable, healthy environment for them all.”
The Ark, which is scheduled to open in the early months of 2016, will include a departure lounge with comfortable places to sit, eat and drink (Costa Coffee for critters?), individual climate-controlled bedrooms for horses and cattle, a vet, an aviary and a Paradise 4 Paws for cats and dogs.
JFK is one of the busiest airports in the world, with some 50m people a year landing and taking off from its runways.
John J. Cuticelli, Jr, the chairman of Racebrook Capital, said the concept tackles “unmet needs” of travelling companion, sporting and agricultural animals. The terminal “will set new international airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kennelling and quarantine services.”
If only someone would think of a way to make the flying experience that pleasant for humans...
New prevention measures include ban on sale of plasma products and ban on importation of live pigs and semen
Ireland’s National Pig Health Council (NPHC) has adopted a list of measures to limit the risk of the entry of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus into the country. The measures were adopted following a recent NPHC meeting.
According to National Pig Health Council Chairman Pat Kirwan, the PED virus prevention measures include:
“Porcine epidemic diarrhea caused enormous losses on farms in America, Canada and Mexico in 2014 killing millions of pigs and leaving farm families devastated,” said Irish Farmers’ Association Pigs Committee Chairman Pat O’Flaherty. “The disease has now been confirmed in the EU and it is spreading fast in the cold weather. Although the disease carried no public health importance, should it enter Irish farms, our industry will be completely decimated.
“Although the industry is taking a proactive stance in terms of trying to protect itself, we are very reliant on the government taking an active role in this also. We are calling on [Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine] to set up a rapid response unit and to put a contingency plan in place that can be followed in the event of an outbreak. There are 10,000 jobs and one billion Euros worth of an industry dependent on it.”
The aquarium industry is facing the most serious threat it has ever had to deal with since 1999. Changes due to commence March 1st., 2015, will significantly impact the industry. If you want to help and already know about this problem, then please go straight to the bottom of this document, where there is an action plan. If you want more information then please read on …..
What is Iridovirus?
There is a family of viruses called Iridovirus. They include a sub-group called Megalocytivirus and one member of this sub-group is commonly called gourami iridovirus. For the sake of consistency, the term gourami iridovirus is used in this Fact Sheet.
The gourami iridovirus is NOT recognized internationally as an OIE listed disease of significance or importance. The OIE (Office International des Epizooties) is the World Organization for Animal Health. It is therefore not considered an important disease internationally and hence there is very little background testing to see how common it is.
History in Australia
This entire process came about because of an illegal practice by the aquaculture industry in 2003. An outbreak of Iridovirus occurred on a Murray Cod farm that killed many young fish. This outbreak was linked to the illegal practice of feeding gourami fish to the Murray Cod broodstock (breeders).
At the time (late-summer) the water temperature was 26 to 27oC . Murray Cod should be kept at a temperature below 25oC, and in fact prefer less than 20oC. They are a temperate fish, not a tropical fish. This high temperature for the Murray Cod was a major contributing factor with heat stress reducing their immune system and making them more susceptible to disease.
The disease problem went away with NO Government intervention, did NOT escape into the wild and has NOT been seen since in Murray Cod or any other native Australian fish since 2003.
Testing by researchers at the Sydney University replicated this outbreak. However, they conducted this by stressing the Murray Cod at high temperatures of 27oC. There has been no study to confirm that the virus can affect Murray Cod at their normal temperature range of below 25oC.
There has never been a serious disease outbreak in Australian native fish in our waterways due to the importation of aquarium fish into Australia.
The current import system is effective because up to 20 million fish are imported into Australia every year and surely by now if there was a potential for a disease outbreak it would have occurred by now. Aquarium fish are generally a dead end for disease transmission with no contact with the wild environment. Most fish owners are responsible and therefore, any fish that die are placed into the rubbish bin or are buried in the ground. Hence, direct contact with waterways is very limited.
Current Quarantine requirements
In Australia, there is insufficient local breeding of fish to supply the home aquarium market and so importing fish is necessary to meet the demand. The importation of fish into Australia operates within a highly regulated Federal Government framework controlled by the Department of Agriculture (previously Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry or DAFF). Only species on the National Allowable Permit List can be imported into Australia, and these fish then enter a Federal Government audited Quarantine Approved Premise (QAP). The fish are held in the QAP after their arrival for 7, 14 or 21 days depending on the species. The fish are released from quarantine only after they have been inspected and found to be healthy by Australian Quarantine Inspection Services (AQIS) officers.
Proposed fish quarantine changes due to Iridovirus
Due to the iridovirus problem in 2003 and some further research, in 2008 the Federal Government elected to undertake a new Import Risk Assessment (IRA) for potential fish affected by iridovirus. The final document was released in September 2014. The PIAA attended many meetings with Government and argued on many occasions that the proposed changes were not necessary.
The Australian Government is about to introduce dramatic changes to the current fish importing requirements. They are demanding off-shore, batch laboratory testing that will result in the killing of thousands of healthy fish. This means that every consignment of fish to be exported will need to be tested before being sent. There is no test currently available without killing fish and collecting their internal organs. The testing regime is all based upon statistics and for example if you wish to import 20 of Fish type X then you need to kill 19 of them. If they test negative the remaining one can be safely imported. If you want to import 50 of Fish type Y, then you need to kill 35 of them. If they test negative the remaining 15 can be safely imported. Finally, if you want to import 2000 of Fish type Z, then you need to kill 58 of them which if they test negative will mean that the remaining 1942 can be safely imported. So many fish will be killed unnecessarily to justify this testing requirement.
Apart from the cost of the laboratory testing (originally estimated at $2000 per batch by the Australian pathology laboratories), the loss of healthy fish becomes a welfare issue.
The only alternative to batch testing is to demonstrate source freedom. A process that normally takes two years, and yet in less than three months the Government expects overseas authorities to be able to somehow satisfy these requirements.
These measures will drastically increase the cost of bringing the remaining fish into Australia and for some it will no longer be economic to import them. Estimations are that the cost of all fish will increase and up to four times for some species. This will have a major impact on many small businesses and make the keeping of fish in home aquariums prohibitively expensive for many people.
All because of an illegal feeding practice back in 2003 by the aquaculture industry.
The other important point to note is that research funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC – report 2009/044) in June 2013, found the gourami iridovirus on an aquarium fish farm in Queensland, indicating it is already in the country. It appears that once again, there was no eradication conducted by the government and so the disease is already present within Australian borders. The same report undertook some testing in wild fish and did not find the virus once again indicating the fact that the current quarantine controls are working.
It is important to note here that Biosecurity Australia (part of the Department of Agriculture) has been providing the scientific advice and policy for the government to consider and then for AQIS to implement. Unfortunately, the outcome provided by Biosecurity Australia and AQIS is completely impractical, commercially unviable and also unnecessary.
The PIAA fully supports the current quarantine of fish and does not see a system that is broken and needs such a radical repair. We ask you to express your concern at what is proposed by sending emails, letters, signing petitions and discussing the problem on social media. Please see below for contact details and what we ask you to do.
I thank you in advance for your co-operation with what is the most serious threat ever to the home aquarium industry.
Dr Rob Jones (‘The Aquarium Vet’)
Director of Pet Services, PIAA
2017 Animal Transportation Association (ATA)20431 Cherrystone Place, Ashburn, VA 20147 USA(P) + 1 202.676.7077
Contact us at email@example.com