Seneca Valley virus re-emerges in swine in the upper Midwest United States - Outbreak News Today | Outbreak News Today Outbreak News Today
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In 2002, a brand new virus was discovered – not in the jungles of Africa – but in an unlikely place, a biotech company in suburban Maryland. The Seneca Valley virus was originally isolated as a contaminant in cell culture medium – likely from the pig trypsin used for the cultivation of the cells. The virus causes a vesicular disease in animals – that is, it causes blisters, particularly on the snouts and hoofs of infected pigs.     

Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Image/Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

“[This year], we have seen a pretty good uptick in cases in both show pigs and on commercial farms in Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota,” Minnesota Pork Executive Director Dave Preisler recently said in a radio interview. “Unfortunately, this [disease] looks exactly like foot and mouth disease,” Preisler went on to say.  

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a severe and highly infectious viral disease affecting cloven-hoofed animals. Despite the disease being only rarely fatal, a diagnosis of FMD often results in the slaughter of millions of animals, taking a heavy economic toll on the farmer. An even more substantial economic impact is felt by affected countries due to the agriculture trade bans that are imposed after a diagnosis of FMD. Countries designated FMD-free (without vaccination) by the World Organisation for Animal Health – the WHO equivalent for animal diseases – have the greatest access to export markets, so it is in the country’s best interest to maintain their current status.         

According to a recent news report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Seneca Valley virus has been found in at least 12 U.S. herds in this year.  Dr. Paul Sundberg, executive director of the pork industry’s Swine Health Information Center, stated in the report that the mortality rates among the neonatal pigs in some infected herds were double the normal rates. The report also stressed that veterinarians need to treat any vesicular disease as a possible FMD infection and report the infection to state or federal animal health authorities.  

This outbreak, and the widespread occurrence of the disease in general, is concerning to U.S. agricultural officials because they do not want veterinarians and swine producers to become complacent and start thinking all cases of vesicular lesions in pigs are due to Seneca Valley virus and forget about FMD.

Sundberg also points out, “the virus has spread across the U.S., appearing in states ranging from Alabama to Hawaii. How the virus spreads and where it originated remain unknown.” In addition to occurring throughout North American, the virus was recently confirmed to be the cause of vesicular disease of pigs in several Brazilian states.

 
Chris A. Whitehouse is a microbiologist and science writer who lives in Maryland.  He writes extensively on emerging infectious diseases of humans and animals.  

Other articles by Chris Whitehouse: 

7 Comments

  1. […] According to a recent news report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Seneca Valley virus has been found in at least 12 U.S. herds in this year. Dr. Paul Sundberg, executive director of the pork industry’s Swine Health Information Center, stated in the report that the mortality rates among the neonatal pigs in some infected herds were double the normal rates. The report also stressed that veterinarians need to treat any vesicular disease as a possible FMD infection and report the infection to state or federal animal healthauthorities.  […]

  2. Bill Starke says:

    Hello Chris,
    Was this virus named for a valley in Maryland? Thanks.
    Bill

    • Bill,

      I suspect the virus was named after Seneca Valley, which is the area around Gaithersburg, Maryland where the biotech company – Genetic Therapy, Inc. – was located. I was unable to confirm this, however, because there was never a publication on the original discovery of the virus.

  3. Bob Tucker says:

    Will Seneca Valley Virus cause abortions or loss of litters prior to farrowing?

  4. Pat Olsen says:

    What are the incubation periods? Do we know if they cause mummy’s or abortions?

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