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In Corbett WMA, Okeechobee, Ft. Pierce:

Viral pseudorabies outbreak kills hog dogs

A psuedorabies outbreak in South Florida in and around the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area (WMA) has reportedly killed over a dozen hunting dogs, leading the state to warn hunters about the viral disease.

An unknown number of hunting dogs have been infected with pseudorabies and died recently following hog-hunting training at J.W. Corbett WMA. As of press time the FWC estimated nine dogs had died, with another six dogs showing signs of infection. An online report from the Everglades Regional Dog Hunters Association said there had been reports of 13 dogs that died during dog training.

Reports indicate the dogs were in the area between Trails 1 and 2, behind “N” camp and south of Corbett WMA’s south check station. There have also been other reports from areas around Okeechobee and Ft. Pierce of similar dog fatalities this year. There were no plans to cancel hog hunting in the area as of press time, according to the FWC.

Pseudorabies is carried by feral hogs and is present throughout Florida. The virus also has been reported in at least 10 other states. FWC staff was testing some of the animals to identify a strain. The disease is present in some populations of wild hogs and is always fatal if transmitted to dogs. There is no cure once a dog contracts the disease.

“When you factor in the disease brucellosis, which some populations of wild hogs carry as well, you can see why we tell people it is never a good idea to move live wild hogs and why we advise hunters to always wear rubber gloves when handling hogs they catch or kill,” FWC Lt. Stan Kirkland said.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pseudorabies Updated: 11/12/08

What is pseudorabies? Pseudorabies is a highly contagious infectious disease of swine caused by pseudorabies virus (PRV), a herpes virus. It can cause reproductive problems (abortion, stillbirths and even occasional death losses) in breeding and finishing hogs. PRV is present in both domestic and feral hogs.

What other names is it commonly known as? It is also known as mad itch or Aujeszky’s disease. What animals are in danger of contracting the disease? Animals that could be infected are pigs, dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, raccoons, opossums, rats, mice, horses, goats, panthers, coyotes, bears and minks.

Can people be infected with pseudorabies? There are no records of humans contracting this disease, not even people working on farms with many PRV-infected animals. Hunters and those handling raw feral hog meat, however, are at risk for swine brucellosis. When handling hogs or raw meat, wear impermeable gloves; do not eat, drink or use tobacco products; avoid direct contact with blood, other fluids, feces and raw meat; wash and disinfect any surfaces contacting meat and blood; and wash hands frequently. More information is available at MyFWC.com/WildlifeDisease.

What is the main host for the disease? Swine are the main host.

How is it transmitted? It is transmitted through saliva, nasal discharge, sexual encounters and from eating contaminated feed/carcasses. It is not transmitted through urine or feces.

How is the virus spread? PRV is spread primarily through direct animal-to-animal (or nose-to-nose) contact between an infected and “shedding” pig and a non-infected pig. If present on inanimate objects (boots, clothing, feed, trucks and equipment) the virus can also spread to domestic swine.

Can horses get it? Horses are resistant to the disease, and reports of horses contracting pseudorabies are very rare.

Are dogs susceptible to contracting pseudorabies? Yes, and it is always fatal when they do contract pseudorabies. It is unlikely that dogs or other animals would be in danger of contracting PRV unless there has been direct contact through a bite wound or through consumption of raw feral hog meat.

Is there a vaccine to protect against the disease? The modified-live vaccine is labeled only for domestic swine and is available only to veterinarians through the Florida Department of Agriculture. Consult a licensed veterinarian for further information.

Is there a cure? No.

How long has it been in the U.S? The first recorded cases in the United States was at least 150 years ago.

How many wild boars have pseudorabies? Past studies in South Florida estimate infection rates in wild boars between 40-50%. A large proportion of feral swine are carriers, but few are actually infectious at any given time. Stress (overcrowding, high water levels or poor nutrition) can increase the percentage of swine that are infectious.

Do domestic pigs have pseudorabies? There have been no reported cases in domestic pigs in the U.S. since 2003.

What are the symptoms of pigs with the disease? Young pigs may die, pregnant sows may abort, older hogs may be healthy until they are stressed, then develop runny noses and watery eyes.

Do pigs recover from pseudorabies? Pigs infected are probably carriers of the virus for life. However, they will likely show symptoms only when they are chronically stressed.

How long can the virus live outside of the hog? It can live up to four days, although the likelihood of being exposed to enough of the virus through indirect contact is low.

Can you eat infected hogs without harm? Yes. However, it is recommended that any animal showing outward signs of being sick (e.g. emaciation, abscesses, runny eyes/nose, etc.) not be consumed as a general precaution, considering the potential for other diseases, including brucellosis. Many hogs will carry the virus but be perfectly healthy.

What are the symptoms of dogs that are infected? Infected dogs will scratch uncontrollably. The disease progresses to symptoms that mimic rabies (frothing at the mouth, loss of muscular control and erratic behavior). Death occurs usually within 48 hours.

How long does it take symptoms to show after exposure? Symptoms can occur in dogs within hours.

Can dogs give it to other dogs? There are no known cases where dogs have infected other dogs. The principal risk of infection in dogs is exposure to hogs actively shedding the virus.

What is the reason for the increase in cases in Corbett WMA this year? The cause for the higher number of cases is unknown, but may be due to environmental stresses such as severe weather and high water.

Will this go away? The virus will always be present in wild hogs; impacts to dogs will lessen as this episode runs its course.

How do I protect my dogs from this? Dog owners can minimize exposure by keeping dogs on a leash and away from hogs. Report any information you have to the FWC at 561-625-5122.