A University of Illinois research study suggests that slaughter facilities and livestock collection points may serve as an effective means of spreading porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus.

In his analysis, Jim Lowe, DVM, assessed the risk that collection points, such as packing plants, play in promoting the initial outbreak of a novel disease organism by estimating the rate of contamination of trailers with PED virus during the unloading process.

The veterinary researcher collected environmental samples from 669 livestock trailers prior to and after unloading pigs into holding pens at seven Midwest slaughter plants.

Approximately 100 samples were collected over a 2-3 day period at each facility in June. All samples were analyzed for the presence of PED virus by polymerase chain reaction at the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

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Across all slaughter plants, 17% of the trailers were contaminated prior to unloading, Lowe found.  Of the trailers that were not contaminated at arrival, 11% were contaminated during the unloading process.

Lowe points out that harvest plants with higher contamination rates at arrival tended to have higher rates of trailers that were contaminated during the unloading process.

For all plants, each contaminated trailer at arrival resulted in 0.96 additional trailers that were contaminated during the unloading process, he says.

“These data suggest that harvest plants and similar livestock collection points serve as an effective method of contaminating fomites with PED virus and could play an important role in expanding the outbreak of PED virus in the United States,” Lowe concludes.

The report appeared in this week’s American Association of Swine Veterinarians weekly online newsletter (http://www.aasv.org/news)

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