Richard Wilkes, DVM, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), recently announced that Virginia has just received laboratory confirmation of its first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the state. In light of this case, which coincides with the beginning of the exhibit season for 4-H members, FFA students and other livestock exhibitors, Wilkes says strict biosecurity is the most effective, as well as the most practical way to prevent the spread of PEDV and many other livestock and poultry diseases.

Wilkes encourages every person involved in showing livestock to enhance their biosecurity efforts. He noted that the VDACS always urges livestock owners who show their animals, as well as those individuals who manage show and exhibition facilities to keep biosecurity uppermost in their minds.

However, Wilkes said that with swine it is even more important now that Virginia has experienced its first case of PEDV, and that having good biosecurity measures in place can help reduce the spread of the disease.

Anytime animals are co-mingled at events, there is a risk they may be exposed to an infectious disease agent. Some states have cancelled pre-show weigh-ins or other animal commingling events to try to prevent PEDV infection of swine. 

PEDV is highly contagious, and commonly spreads through pig manure. Consuming pork continues to be safe and the disease does not affect humans, but is often deadly to piglets. Practicing and implementing sound biosecurity measures is critical in keeping the state’s animals disease free and marketable.

Wilkes says that good biosecurity and advance planning will reduce the chances of spreading an infectious disease by people, animals, shoes and clothing or equipment. Show managers should have a proper biosecurity plan ready to execute in the event that an animal disease is introduced at a major stock show or event.

VDACS offers the following guidelines to help minimize risk at events where animals co-mingle. Note that these general recommendations also apply to diseases that can be spread between humans and animals.

Biosecurity for animal exhibitors:

  • Consult your veterinarian to establish an appropriate vaccination program for your livestock prior to attending an event.
  • Before stalling your animal at an event, make sure the stall has been cleaned and disinfected and use clean, fresh bedding.
  • Minimize direct contact with other animals.
  • Use your own water and feed buckets. Avoid letting your animal(s) drink from a communal water trough. Fill water buckets from a faucet, not a shared tank.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling other animals to minimize the risk of transferring a disease back to your animal.
  • Before returning home from an event, clean and disinfect your equipment (boots, grooming supplies, buckets, etc.) to help reduce the risk of transporting an infectious agent back home.
  • Isolate your returning animal(s) for 2 weeks or prevent contact with your other animals and watch for signs of illness in all of your animals.
  • When you come home from a fair/exhibition be sure disinfect your trailer.
  • Consult your veterinarian concerning these and other steps you can follow which may reduce the risk of your animal acquiring an infectious disease while traveling.

Biosecurity for event organizers:

  • Minimize contact between animals where possible.
  • Minimize spread by human hands (limit public access, provide hand sanitizer, establish restricted areas in front of stalls and trailers, post hand-washing signs).
  • Minimize spread by shared tack (post signs advising participants not to share equipment).
  • Where practical, provide solid, high-walled stalls to minimize spread of infectious nasal droplets.

Biosecurity when visiting an animal exhibit such as a fair or petting zoo:

  • Locate hand-washing stations and use them often. Always wash your hands after petting animals or touching the animal enclosure, especially before eating and drinking.
  • Use running water and soap whenever possible. Use hand gels if running water and soap are not available.
  • Keep food and drinks out of animal areas.
  • Never allow children to put their hands or objects such as pacifiers in their mouths while interacting with animals.

The state veterinarian noted that showing livestock is an enriching and rewarding experience for the state's youth.