Oregon detects pseudorabies in feral pig

Feral swine in green field
Disease detected as part of ongoing feral pig control and disease surveillance but not linked to commercial livestock operations.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) announced July 19 that an adult female feral pig from central Oregon tested positive for pseudorabies (PRV) -- a contagious disease that can harm livestock and also spread to some wildlife species -- as part of a surveillance program.

ODA said the pig was sampled on June 8, 2020, as a part of the ongoing feral pig control and disease surveillance program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services unit in Oregon.

This is the first detection of PRV in a feral pig in Oregon since the surveillance program began in 2007. The U.S. commercial hog industry has been PRV free since 2004, ODA noted.

PRV (also known as Aujeszky’s Disease) is a contagious, infectious and communicable viral disease of livestock, causing neurologic, respiratory and reproductive disorders, ODA explained. It is not related to rabies, although symptoms may resemble rabies, and the disease does not affect humans. Although other livestock species have been known to occasionally become infected, the pig is the only natural host.

“While the presence of PRV in Oregon has so far been an isolated event, it shows that our disease surveillance program is working. It is too early to know how this disease appeared in Oregon, but additional testing and investigation is ongoing,” ODA district veterinarian Ryan Scholz said. “There is no indication that there has been any exposure of domestic livestock in Oregon to the pseudorabies virus, and this detection does not have any impact on Oregon’s recognition as being a PRV-free state.”

ODA noted that the state has an aggressive program to capture and remove any feral pigs in Oregon. Beyond their potential to transmit disease to livestock, wildlife and people, feral pigs cause damage to agricultural crops and fish and wildlife habitat. Their destructive rooting and grubbing activities increase erosion and degrade water quality in streams, encourage the growth of noxious weeds and can cause millions of dollars in agricultural, environmental and property damage.

The program has been successful in keeping feral swine populations from growing in Oregon, with the current estimated population decreasing from 5,000 in the early 2000s to possibly 200 today, ODA said.

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