Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Strangles reported in Whidbey Island horses, but an issue for all horse owners

Dr. Amber Itle
Assistant State Veterinarian 

Last week, strangles was diagnosed in a horse and two ponies at a Whidbey Island stable. There are a total of five horses and two ponies on the premise and the infected animals were recently purchased from a sale yard in Oregon.

While there is no formal quarantine for the facility, the owners have committed to isolating the infected horse and ponies, which are all under the supervision of a veterinarian. Additionally, no animals are currently being allowed on or off the premise.

Strangles is rarely fatal and the prognosis for recovery is usually very good with proper care. But as the name suggests, strangles can affect a horse’s respiratory system. Typically, signs of the disease include:

  • Fever.
  • Abscesses in the mandibular lymph nodes.
  • Nasal discharge that can include thick white and yellow mucus.
  • Inflammation of the throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Coughing.
  • In rare cases, bleeding from the capillaries.
While strangles is contagious and endemic in Washington, it is not usually fatal. Still, it is a reportable disease, meaning any diagnoses of strangles should be reported to the Washington State Veterinarian's Office.

The best protection against strangles is practicing good biosecurity. Here are some other suggestions from the Equine Disease Communication Center (EDCC):
  • When possible, isolate new horses for up to three weeks when they are being introduced to a new facility. 
  • During an outbreak, such as the situation at the Whidbey Island facility, avoid coming in contact with susceptible animals after handling an infected animal. 
  • Wear protective clothing, avoid using the same equipment on multiple animals, and disinfect both your hands and equipment when moving between animals.
The EDCC also publishes this “Strangles Fact Sheet,” which has more tips and suggestions.

Veterinarians should alert the State Veterinarian's Office of reportable diseases by calling (360) 902-1878.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Aquaculture coordinator signals new focus on shellfish and seafood industry for WSDA

Hector Castro

Washington has long been known for its oysters, geoducks and other shellfish that make up our state’s aquaculture industry. Now, WSDA is prepared to expand its role in working with the growers and harvesters of these agricultural products.
Laura Butler, WSDA aquaculture coordinator

In November, WSDA announced the creation of a new position at the agency, an aquaculture coordinator, to be filled by former Policy Advisor Laura Butler, who has a background in agricultural sciences and experience working in public policy.

The initial scope of work for this position will include:

  • Conducting introductory and outreach meetings with growers to understand their challenges.  
  • Providing outreach, education and technical assistance to local governments to learn about their processes and help them better understand the needs of the aquaculture industry.
  • Facilitating interagency coordination to streamline regulatory processes and identify areas where rules or regulations are redundant.  

WSDA’s aquaculture coordinator will also be a liaison to the Governor’s Office, other state agencies and external partners. In addition, this position is expected to coordinate efforts within the Washington Shellfish Initiative and co-chair the Department of Ecology’s Interagency Permitting Team.

Fish and seafood are among Washington's top exports, with $1.1 billion worth of product shipped to markets in Canada, Japan, China and other countries.

Thanks to the efforts of the aquaculture industry during the 2017 legislative session, the first year of the coordinator position is fully funded.

Friday, December 29, 2017

WSDA’s 2017 year in review

Mike Louisell

This past year, Washington escaped the devastating wildfires, flooding and droughts affecting other states. But 2017 was still a busy year for WSDA. Here are a few highlights from our year.

New ways of serving the ag industry 
The agency’s primary purpose is to serve the agriculture industry, and sometimes that means we need to upgrade our gear.
This past year, one major upgrade was the completion of a 4,800 square-foot greenhouse, replacing an older, smaller greenhouse that had been in use for years. Located at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center at Prosser, the new WSDA greenhouse features improved temperature and irrigation controls and allows nurseries to offer virus-tested, disease-free stock to orchardists and fruit producers across the U.S. and for export markets.

Bug history made in August
In August, we made an astonishing discovery – an active gypsy moth nest hidden among some shrubbery in a Pierce County community. It is the first instance ever of anyone detecting live female gypsy moths actively laying eggs.
Altogether, about 100 live females and 95 males gypsy moths were caught in this one location. While that was not a record for total seasonal catches, finding an active nest made for an historic discovery for our gypsy moth program.

Travelling for agriculture 
WSDA Director Derek Sandison is a great believer in getting out and meeting with those involved in agriculture. Some meetings were close to home, such as his participation in the South King County Agriculture Town Hall. There, Director Sandison joined 4-H coordinators, WSU researchers and local government leaders to discuss ways to support farming near an urban community.

But some trips took the director out of state, such as the trade mission to Mexico led by Governor Jay Inslee. The delegates visited both Guadalajara and Mexico City, touring markets, meeting with government officials and generally demonstrating the importance of Mexico to Washington agricultural exports.

New programs 
This year two new programs at the agency got under way – the Produce Safety Program and the Industrial Hemp Pilot program.
The Produce Safety Program was created in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration, which provided a 5-year grant to fund the program. Its primary mission is to help producers in our state comply with the new requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Also gearing up in 2017 was the new Industrial Hemp Pilot, created after the legislature allocated $145,000 for WSDA to launch the new program. The first hemp growing licenses were issued this past spring. However, funding for the program only covered the first year and the seven licenses issued do not cover operational costs. The program faces an uncertain future for 2018.

Consumer protection 
WSDA’s Weights and Measures inspectors did more than the usual, but critical, monitoring of gas pumps and scales for accuracy. The team also collaborated with financial institutions to combat fraud by inspecting fuel dispensers for credit card skimmers, which can steal credit and debit card information from unsuspecting consumers.

Also this year, the inspectors began placing fuel rate stickers on gas pumps during their routine inspections, following a legislative mandate to inform consumers of taxes on fuel. The current total taxes drivers pay when filling up includes 67.8 cents per gallon for state and federal taxes on gasoline and 73.8 cents for gallon for diesel.

Fair time 
WSDA typically staffs a public outreach booth at one county fair most summers, but this past year, the agency set up booths at three fairs across the state, including the Washington State Fair in Pierce County, the Central Washington Fair in Yakima County, and the Evergreen State Fair in Snohomish County.
Director Sandison visited all three locations, as did state veterinarian Dr. Brian Joseph and numerous agency employees. Director Sandison also attended the Grant County Fair, where he was interviewed for the television show Washington Grown.

Looking ahead to 2018
Much anticipated by both staff and stakeholders, WSDA is just starting the process of updating its website, which hasn’t been revised in at least a decade.

In Eastern Washington, keep an eye out for newly designed apple maggot signs, which WSDOT will install this spring.

WSDA will be monitoring the all-important 2018 Farm Bill, working with members of Washington’s congressional delegation and our partners at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Stay connected with WSDA
These highlights barely scratch the surface of the work that the agency has done in 2017. To stay up with the latest news, follow us in 2018 through this blog, on Facebook or Twitter, and now on Instagram.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Update on current equine herpes quarantine

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian

Interest has been high in a case of EHV-1, neuropathogenic strain, detected earlier this month in King County. This particular strain of equine herpes virus is highly contagious and, while it won’t infect people, it can be fatal to horses.

Since being notified of the infected horse on Dec. 13, WSDA has had a quarantine in place at the stable where it was housed. So far, 32 horses housed at the stable have been tested. The virus has been detected in 9 of these horses. Seven horses have been euthanized, while several others are being monitored.

The virus spreads between horses only at certain stages of the disease, so not all horses have currently been tested. Even though we may not detect the virus when testing, the horse may still be infected. At the same time, even if we detect the presence of the virus in the horse or if the horse develops neurological symptoms, it does not mean the horse will be euthanized. Most horses recover.

Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, we continue to urge horse owners to watch for signs of possible infection, such as:

  • Fever of 102.5F or higher.
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose.
  • Respiratory symptoms.
  • Swelling of the limbs.
  • Spontaneous abortions.
  • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.

We recommend that horse owners:

  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.
  • Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above.

In addition to working with the horses, WSDA and local veterinarians have been working closely with the local community to ensure excellent biosecurity is practiced whenever someone must leave the stable. For more tips on keeping your own horses safe through good biosecurity practices, please see our previous blog post on this incident.

The time between exposure and illness from EHV-1 varies from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, you can help prevent the spread of this virus.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tips for horse owners – protecting your horse from equine herpes virus

Dr. Brian Joseph
Washington State Veterinarian 

Last week, WSDA was notified of a laboratory-verified case of equine herpes virus myeloencephalopathy or EHV-1, neuropathogenic strain, in King County.  EHV-1, in its neurotropic form, is a highly contagious virus that can be fatal to horses but will not infect people.
WSDA immediately put a quarantine in place and has been testing horses that were housed near the first infected horse and horses showing clinical signs of infection. Work has also begun to trace animals that may have come into contact with the first infected horse. So far, five additional horses at the stable have been found to be infected and are being closely monitored.

Given the highly infectious nature of the virus, WSDA is urging horse owners to follow these recommendations:
  • Watch your horse for signs of possible infection, such as:
    • Fever of 102.5F or higher
    • Discharge from the eyes or nose
    • Respiratory symptoms
    • Swelling of the limbs
    • Spontaneous abortions
    • Neurological signs such as unsteady gait, weakness, urine dripping, lack of tail tone and recumbency.
  • Check your horse’s temperature twice daily, ideally first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Also, check before administering medications as some can lower body temperature.
  • Notify your veterinarian immediately if you detect any of the symptoms above. Your veterinarian may want to take nasal swabs for virus detection or blood samples for evidence of exposure to EHV-1.

Testing and vaccines

Suspected cases should be checked for EHV-1 by a veterinarian. The Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman provides EHV-1 testing, including differentiating the EHV-1 neuropathogenic strain. Veterinarians can contact WADDL at (509) 335-9696 to submit a red top (serum) blood tube, and a lavender top (whole blood) tube and nasal swabs.

Although there are several EHV-1 vaccines available that control respiratory disease or abortion in horses, none of the vaccines provide immunity against EHV-1, neurotropic form.

Keep it clean and protect your horse

The disease is spread from horse to horse through direct contact, on feed, tack and equipment. While people cannot be infected by the virus, they can carry it on their clothes or hands. Here are some biosecurity steps horse owners should follow to protect their animals from becoming infected or spreading this virus:
  1. Wash hands, clothing and equipment and avoid using the same equipment on different horses.
  2. Monitor all horses on your premises for symptoms.
  3. Limit direct horse-to-horse contact.
  4. Limit stress to horses.
  5. Clean barn areas, stables, trailers or other equine contact surfaces thoroughly, removing all organic matter (dirt, nasal secretions, uneaten feed, manure, etc.), then apply a disinfectant. Organic material decreases the effectiveness of disinfectants. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when mixing disinfectants and for contact time.
  6. Use footwear disinfectant and hand sanitizer when moving between areas.
  7. If you have a potentially exposed horse, restrict human, pet and vehicle traffic from the area where the exposed horse is stabled.
  8. Clean all shared equipment and shared areas, again removing dirt and manure before application of a disinfectant.
  9. Self-quarantine any horses with possible symptoms away from other horses and contact your veterinarian immediately.
The time between exposure and illness from EHV-1 varies from two to 14 days. By self-quarantining animals with possible symptoms, practicing good biosecurity on your property and during travel, and contacting your veterinarian as soon as you suspect possible symptoms, horse owners can do a lot to prevent further spread of the virus.