Illinois State Veterinarian Mark Ernst provides a new-year outlook during the annual meeting of the Land of Lincoln Purebred Livestock Breeder’s Association.
Illinois State Veterinarian Mark Ernst provides a new-year outlook during the annual meeting of the Land of Lincoln Purebred Livestock Breeder’s Association.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois state veterinarian doesn’t anticipate any changes in regulations in 2013 and reviewed disease reports from this past year during the annual meeting of the Land of Lincoln Purebred Livestock Breeder’s Association.

“There have been some questions in the past about our pseudorabies regulations for exhibition, and unless our board of livestock commissioners decide between now and state fair time to eliminate that, we’re still going to be requiring testing for pseudorabies for exhibition,” said Mark Ernst.

He noted two disease events that occurred this past year that highlight the importance of developing further biosecurity plans for the state fair.

Four cases of the H3N2 variant in people were confirmed between August 2011 and November 2012, and there were 308 cases nationwide.

“Just before the Illinois State Fair started this past year, we received information that Indiana was dealing with some outbreaks of influenza in people that had been traced back to exhibitions and their exposure at exhibitions,” Ernst said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health and Center for Disease Control have been involved at the Illinois level, and CDC was involved nationwide to trace exposures.

“Most of these cases were associated with exhibition swine,” Ernst said.

“Probably the most important thing is that some of these swine were not clinically ill. They were showing no clinical signs, and so to go in and take temperatures on swine or to do an inspection of swine when they enter the fairgrounds in an attempt to cut out any sick swine didn’t necessarily mean that we were getting all of the pigs that could have been shedding virus.

“Fortunately, we did not have any reports or confirmations that we had exposures and sick people from the Illinois State Fair.

“But what I wanted everybody to really consider and think about is this is something that is a little bit new in that it’s not something we can just test for and say come to the fair with a negative test and everything is going to be OK. This is something that’s going to require the cooperation of exhibitors, as well as regulators. We just can’t vaccinate our way out of it or test our way out of it.

“Some of the things I want everybody to start thinking about is how are we going to control potential exposures, not only for this disease, but perhaps some other diseases that may be present in the future. We talked a little bit about requiring a negative testing. Well, that test is only good from the time you collect that test sample. What happens tomorrow could be a completely different story.”

Ernst encouraged those raising livestock to monitor their animals for any clinical signs of disease. “I know it’s easy to say I have one or two or a group of animals that are kind of off, and I’m going to wait and see what happens with them,” he said. “But I would encourage that you have your veterinarian take a look at them and really try to make a decision if this is a group of animals or an animal you really don’t want to continue to exhibit at the fair and potentially expose other animals.

“How are we going to decrease human exposure to viruses such as this influenza virus? If you were at the fair last year, I’m sure you saw there was signage and hand-washing stations and all kinds of other provisions made to try to decrease exposure.

“I don’t have a good answer to all of this. This is going to be a group effort. We have to improve biosecurity, and it’s difficult to improve biosecurity at a fair when you get pins of swine or cattle that are stalled next to neighbor’s cattle.

“We have to manage it all as one herd instead of a lot of separate herds, at least when they’re here on the fairgrounds. Do we consider decreasing the time that a specific group of animals or a certain species is on the grounds? Do the barrows come in today, show tomorrow and go home the next day? I don’t know.

“That’s a situation that may have to be considered at some point in time. But people go to the fair because they want to see exhibitions. They want to see the animals there, so that’s a difficult decision.

“I think we need to do a better job maybe of providing some isolation facilities so if we do have animals on the fairgrounds that are questionable we can get them isolated while trying to make a determination on them. Or do we send them home? And what are the implications if we send them home? If we send them home, they could potentially expose other animals off the fairgrounds.”

Another disease that currently is being monitored is equine herpes virus-1, a form of the herpes virus that generally is exhibited as a respiratory disease. It also can cause reproductive problems in mares and cause abortion in mares.

“When that occurs, oftentimes those horses either die, need to be euthanized or has some long-lasting problems,” Ernst said.

“We’ve been dealing with this since the middle of October at Hawthorne Race Course. They’ve continue to race there, but the racecourse has been locked down. We’ve had five horses there that either died or had to be euthanized because of this.

“We’ve had number of other horses that have tested positive. They’ve made all the attempts they can to isolate horses, separate sick horses from horses that aren’t sick, positive-testing horses from horses that tested negative.

“They’ve gone through and tried to educate everyone on that track — from the trainers to the grooms to the hot walkers — in proper biosecurity. This is a disease that passes from direct nose-to-nose contact. If a horse is snotting around and they have hassle secretions on the rail, anyplace that the horse may touch could be a potential route of exposure for another horse.”

Out-of-state horses have been allowed to return to their state of origin provided that state’s veterinarian makes the request.

Provisions also have been established for horses from Hawthorne that are of Illinois origin to return to their home or another off-track site within the state.

“We’ve set up a protocol for those horses to be quarantined. They have to be monitored by their veterinarian, and they’ll be quarantined for a 28-day period minimum provided they don’t have any clinical signs or any other sick horses on that premise during that quarantine period,” Ernst said.

“The reason I bring this up is this is something else that in some point in time we may have to deal with on the fairgrounds, as well during the horse show. If we were to have an animal that tested positive for EHV-1, we have to make the determination on how we manage that. Do we have the ability to quarantine them on the grounds?

“If we quarantine them on the ground that means we basically quarantine all of the horses on the grounds, and then what happens when you run out of stall space and when it comes time for the next group of horses to come in?

“I bring all of these things up as food for thought. I would entertain anybody’s ideas on how to manage these things.

“I think it’s something that we all have to think about, especially with the EHV-1 at the track. It’s not just the people at the track and the track veterinarians, but everybody has to be involved in maintaining the proper biosecurity in order to break the cycle of this disease that constantly circulating around the track there.

“I don’t want to see something like that happen at one of our exhibitions.”