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Porcine deltacoronavirus can jump species - but don’t panic

WOOSTER, Ohio — Media reports sparked attention with the porcine deltacoronavirus, a pig pathogen that could find its way into laboratory-cultured cells of humans and other species.

Researchers at The Ohio State University and Utrecht University in the Netherlands collaborated to understand this virus better. That study was the first to point out the possible transmission across species.

“The first published findings of this porcine deltacoronavirus were in 2012 in Shanghai and the year after Dr. Linda Saif, a researcher at Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC), discovered it here in the United States,” said Dr. Scott Kenney, assistant professor at OARDC and a lead researcher in the project.

“It is not an imminent pandemic, so no one should panic. It’s not a foodborne illness, so people should not avoid pork products. Currently, there is no evidence that any human has ever been infected with this virus, but there is a potential for it. The concern we have is mainly for people who work with swine, especially sick swine.”

The researchers are currently looking at the potential of the virus to spread to chickens and turkeys, Kenney said. It is also a possibility that poultry carries the virus and could spread it to pigs.

People working around sick pigs or other animals should take common-sense precautions, Kenney explained. They should wear gloves, keep sick animals isolated from the rest of the herd, thoroughly wash their hands – really, things people usually do to prevent the spread of any virus.

Like many producers, biosecurity has become a central focus at the Hord Family Farms in Bucyrus since they were impacted by the deltacoronavirus in the winter of 2013, said farm veterinarian Dr. Bryan Ideus.

“A great strength of the system is an internal multiplier farm,” he said. “This permits all Hord livestock to be sourced internally with known disease status by utilizing a routine surveillance program. Surveillance tests are performed before and following internal movements, to maintain the high health statuses across farms. We use internal trucks and trailers to transport animals between sites.”

Trucks and trailers used in moving animals are put through internal washes, thermo-assisted drying and decontamination stations before returning to source farms the next day. Animals that are being marketed will leave farms on clean, disinfected trucks and trailers destined for harvesting plants or cull-transfer stations.

At Schwab Family Farms in Somerville, the first line of defense against illness in its pigs is regular visits by their veterinarian to review the protocol on the farm, said Jeff Schwab, owner. The veterinarian also works with the breeding stock supplier so that incoming breeding stock is tested within a few days of arrival. Those animals are isolated on a different farm before introducing them into the herd.

The workers have a facility where they change clothes and shower-in and shower-out. The farm provides gloves and other protective clothing. A flu outbreak is always in the back of his mind, Schwab said.

“We limit traffic to the farm,” he said. “We don’t encourage outsiders to come in anymore. If they do, we’ll ask them to shower and wear our coveralls and boots.

“We also wash our trucks that are leaving the farm. As soon as they come back, they are cleaned and washed. We wash down our barns once a month. We do everything possible to protect everybody.”