Rabies alert for Southern Arizona counties continues

Map RabiesPositive skunksYou may recall the Rabies alert we published back in November.  As it turns out, that was just the beginning of an increase in rabid skunks in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. So far in 2014 we are finding  1-2 skunks positive for rabies every week and it’s not even springtime when the skunks come out of their dormant state.  Please see the news release and map put out by the Departments of Health, Agriculture and Game and Fish (below) for more details.  And if you see any wild animal acting strangely, stay away from it.  If one of your animals has a skunk encounter and starts exhibiting abnormal behavior, call your veterinarian!

Contacts:  Laura Oxley, ADHS & ADA Public Information, (602) 542-1094

Lynda Lambert, Game & Fish Public Information (623) 236-7203


The Arizona Departments of Health Services, Agriculture, and Game and Fish want to alert Arizonans to an increase in rabid skunks in two southern counties. Since the beginning of 2014, 13 rabid skunks have been identified in Pima and Santa Cruz Counties. In 2013, a total of 17 rabid skunks were identified in these areas.

Rabies is found mainly in wild animals such as bats, skunks, foxes, bobcats and coyotes.  Rodents such as rats, mice, and squirrels aren’t likely to be infected with rabies. The first sign of rabies is usually a change in the animal’s normal behavior. The greatest danger to people is through their pets and livestock.

“If the family pet, horse or livestock is bitten by a rabid animal, it is at risk of catching the virus if it isn’t up to date on its vaccinations,” said Perry Durham, D.V.M., State Veterinarian.  “Unfortunately if a wild animal bites a family pet that hasn’t been vaccinated, the pet will have to be quarantined, perhaps euthanized.  Rabies vaccinations will protect your pet and your family from the possibility of the disease.”

The rabies virus attacks the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. People and animals can get rabies if they are bitten by a rabid animal, or exposed to a rabid animal’s brain or spinal fluid. During hunting season, hunters should wear gloves and protective eyewear when field dressing game to prevent the spread of many diseases.

People who are bitten or otherwise exposed to a potentially rabid animal should contact their healthcare provider immediately to get preventative medication. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, preventive medication can prevent the symptoms.

Outdoors enthusiasts who see wild animals acting out of the ordinary or see a large number of dead skunks or foxes should notify local animal control or Game and Fish (24-hour dispatch line: 623-236-7201).

To protect yourself and your family from rabies:

•     Avoid touching, handling, or adopting wild or stray animals

•     Get your pets vaccinated against rabies (consider your horse and livestock as well)

•     Call your healthcare provider and county health department if you  are bitten by a wild animal

•     Call your veterinarian if your pet is exposed to a wild animal

Livestock, horse and pet owners should speak with their veterinarian about how to their protect animals. Learn more about rabies at http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/vector/rabies/index.htm.

skunk in woods

More on PEDV

Here’s some more information (the bulleted items) on Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), most of which I’ve liberated from ISU’s PEDV Fact Sheet.

  • PEDV is a coronavirus that is related to transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) and causes enteric disease clinically indistinguishable from TGE. Yet, there is little-to-no cross protection afforded by immunity developed to one against the other. Similarly, diagnostic tests designed to detect TGE virus will not detect PEDV or vice versa.
  • As the name implies, the primary clinical sign in outbreaks that occur in previously naïve herds is severe diarrhea in pigs of all ages. Clinical signs will be essentially identical to those expected with acute TGEV infection.

Question then to consider: is the diarrhea outbreak TGE (commonly found virus in the US) or PEDV? or from some other diarrheal agent? hard to know; and how do you know without diagnostics?

  • PED is not a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reportable disease and as such should not affect export markets.

Question then to consider: what do our global trading partners do if we start erecting quarantines and barriers internally?

  • Like TGE, after the initial epidemic, PED commonly becomes endemic in a herd and population. In some countries (i.e. much of Europe), PED has evolved into a relatively minor problem with occasional epidemics (i.e. Italy in 2005-2006) whereas in other countries (i.e. China), PED continues to be a major disease challenge.

Pay close attention to this one. “Endemic” means it’s now a part of that particular herd and its environment. So the question to consider: Does a statement that a given herd hasn’t experienced a PEDV case within 30 days provide security? or a false sense of security?

  • The virus is spread via the fecal-oral route. The most common sources of infected feces are pigs, trucks, boots, clothing, or other fomites.
  • Once infected, the incubation period is very short (12-24 hours) and the virus is shed for 7-10 days.
  • Prevention: Current biosecurity methods have been highly successful in keeping TGE virus out of farms and it is likely that those same methods will be effective for PED. This virus is transmitted by direct pig exposure or indirect exposure through fomites which are contaminated with fecal material which contain virus. Transport vehicles can quickly spread the virus. Likewise personnel can track the virus if exposed to virus shedding pigs, or fecal material on trucks, stockyards, slaughter facilities, or other locations where pigs or pig workers have been who have been exposed to infected pigs. Contact your veterinarian for biosecurity information concerning exclusion methods.

Two points: Are you going to bring it onto your operation? or allow someone else to do that for you? And if you do, you’ll likely know it fairly quickly.

  • If a sow or gilt has been previously exposed and has developed immunity, protection is provided to her suckling pigs through consumption of PED virus-neutralizing antibodies in milk. When pigs are weaned, they become susceptible and develop disease if exposed to virus.
  • Control: Herd closure followed by 100% feedback exposure has been a successful strategy to eliminate TGE virus both in continuous flow single site and standalone breeding herds in multi- site systems. It stands to reason due to the similarities of the two viruses that this is likely an effective control and farm elimination method for PED. Contact your veterinarian for consultation on herd elimination protocols.

This goes to the heart of a feedback system – a tried and true management technique that’s been around for a long time. But as I am constantly reminded – now that we live in such a “smart-device age” with near-constant access to data (qualities unknown and generally ignored) – many of us seem to know very little any more about basic health and husbandry, or have forgotten some very important (and hard-earned) lessons (and yes that opinion goes for more than just the world of animal science).

An excellent (albeit in-depth) paper on implementing a feedback system (written specifically addressing PEDV) can be found at the American Association of Swine Veterinarian’s site.

  • Attenuated live vaccines have been developed and utilized with mixed results in Asia. TGE vaccines are NOT effective against PED.

I read this as saying “when” we will have an effective vaccine, not “if”. But that is also predicated on the developers having an economic incentive to do so. This also is a long-range matter that does not address today.

  • Sanitizing and drying or heating pig trailers is effective against PEDV. Temperatures above 150° F for more than 10 minutes will inactivate the virus. Complete drying after sanitizing is also an effective inactivation method. A minimum of 12 hours down time between pig exposures, a complete change of clothing before entry, shower systems, and fumigation of all supplies and equipment entering the farm are, when used together an effective deterrent against people tracking the virus.

Keep this thought in mind when you’re trying to envisage the future, TGE (and seemingly PEDV) like cold, damp environments (which is a large part of why I believe we are seeing increasing infections across the country at this time of the year). We’ve got a huge asset on our side with our dry, often hot climate.

Wash your hands!


How often have we heard that instruction from our parents growing up? Little did we know they were giving us the best advice possible to prevent disease spread. And that advice is most important now, during the influenza season.

Influenza activity in Arizona continues to be elevated and widespread. Through January 25, 2014, all 15 counties are reporting cases of Flu and the number of people falling ill is higher than average. 76 people have died from complications of the Flu including one child. In neighboring California, many of those that have been severely ill from the Flu have been young to middle-aged adults who were otherwise healthy.

We would like to remind everyone that it is not too late to get a flu shot. Influenza vaccination is the best prevention against flu, and influenza activity in Arizona usually lasts through the spring months. National data indicate that this year’s vaccine is a good match to the circulating viruses. Flu vaccination locations and other information can be found at http://www.azdhs.gov/flu

Remember to stay home when you are sick and use good respiratory etiquette to prevent the spread of influenza.

fluhygieneposterProtect yourself!

Do it for the herd!

Get a Flu shot today!

If you have any questions, please contact your local health department http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/contacts.htm#l).