Saturday, October 23, 2010

Inevitable overspill - pigs.

We have spoken many times of the inevitable overspill of 'bovine' TB from its tested, slaughtered sentinels into any other mammal which happens to cross its path.

We have given mileage and support to the owners of alpacas, reeling as their animals die from a dangerous zoonosis which many of them had never associated with their particular group. So seriously do they take the risk to their animals, that they have set up this new website (on the link and the sidebar) to inform and support owners.

However, we still get the age old comment it's "bovine" TB - so it's carried by cattle, spread by cattle and only affects cattle. The posting below, a gem of a comment from the Viva! organisation actually states just that. Stop cattle farming everything will be fine. Except that the environmental contamination from the primary wildlife host of m.bovis, has already affected several other species, and continues to do so.

Last week, we were alerted to a new leaflet issued by BPEX, the pig industry support body. This describes bTB as in pigs as 'a spillover' problem, as opposed to maintenance host of the disease:
"bTB is a mycobacterial disease and its ability to infect many species, makes it a very problematic disease. As well as cattle, some of the species bTB can infect include camelids, horses, badgers, cats, sheep, humans, wild boar, pigs and deer. Pigs are classed as a spill-over host. This means when levels of bTB circulating among wildlife and cattle in the local environment become very high, it literally spills over into other species, which are not usually infected with bTB. This situation is most likely to occur in bTB hot spots such as the South West and the Midlands but it is essential that all producers are vigilant due to ‘off-site’ and contract growing and finishing, and also pigs being moved between regions for finishing.

To produce such a bulletin, which is fairly long and detailed, and to combine its launch with area meetings, one would assume that the numbers of pigs found with TB at slaughter are likely to be significantly more than the 13 shown on Defra's 'other species' TB statistics show? These figures relate to positive cultures only, and then only one or two of the beginning of an outbreak, and are many months out of date. But a BPEX a spokes-person has confirmed a figure of 40 pigs (in the last eighteen months)to Farmers Guardian, who have the story.
National Pig Association regions manager Zoe Davies said, while the increase might be partially down to an increase in reporting, it is also being driven by high levels of infection in the environment, with pigs picking it up from badgers.
No cattle mentioned then? No unpasteurised milk? At least someone has their brain cells in gear. Dr. Davies continued on the subject of free range, outdoor pigs:
Dr Davies said free range units were particularly susceptible. Owners of rare breed and pedigree pigs tended to be worse hit as these animals were generally kept for longer than commercial pigs.

The NPA and BPEX have put together an advice leaflet [link above] on how to minimise the risk of infection that has been distributed to most major pig keepers in the country.

Along with the British Pig Association they have also met with Defra’s TB policy team to seek to develop a proper policy to deal with the problem.

“Our big issue is that Defra don’t have a policy for how to deal with TB in pigs. It is vaguely based on what they have for cattle, which doesn’t really work [for pigs]." she said.

We have been told of pig TB cases in closed indoor units, carried in on badger-contaminated feed and also the more worrying instances of very rare breed pigs, particularly at risk in a hotspot area. More TB casualties are inevitable, as the scale of bacterial contamination in the environment rises. There will come a time when Tuberculosis infection in all these animals (and their in-contact owners ) cannot be excused by visits to foreign shores, or drinking unpasteurised milk.

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