Report from the State Veterinarian

  |   State Regulatory

West Nile Virus Update – (from Dr. Thomas Gilliom) – The West Nile Virus (WNV) has been confirmed in nine horses by mid-September in our state.  Spokane County has recorded six cases, one in Benton County, one in Lincoln County, and one in Kittitas County.

The virus infects birds which are the natural reservoir.  An interesting side note is that we found WNV this year in a pheasant and a gyrfalcon. WNV is spread by mosquitoes that have fed on infected birds.  The disease sickens horses, people, birds and other animals, but it does not spread directly from horses to people or other animals.

The disease can be fatal to horses especially if they show advanced neurological signs. The best way to prevent WNV in equines is by vaccination and keeping mosquito pools and exposure to a minimum.  It’s never too late to vaccinate your horse for WNV.

Livestock Inspection Program – The core of what WSDA does is asset protection and theft deterrence. As a program, our inspectors write dozens of impound notices every week.  If the consignor is not the registered brand holder and cannot provide proof of ownership or the right to sell that animal, the sale proceeds are impounded by the livestock inspector and retained by WSDA.

By law, consigners have up to one year to establish ownership or the right to sell.  If the brand is registered in Washington, we also contact the brand holder to see if they want to make a claim on the proceeds if the consignor cannot prove ownership. We also initiate an investigation if theft is suspected.

If an impound is done at a livestock market, the market may retain the proceeds for up to 30 days to give the consignor an opportunity to establish ownership.  This 30-day period is typically more than enough time for the consignor to find their paperwork and a majority of our impound proceeds are paid to the consignor by the market.  If the consignor fails to establish ownership within 30 days, those proceeds are sent to Olympia to be held for one year or until the consignor establishes ownership.

From January to the end of June, WSDA’s Livestock Inspection Program staff wrote 380 impounds for 935 head of cattle.  Consignors established ownership in 318 of those cases and were paid by the market.  Twenty-one were paid to the brand holder, 19 were sent to Olympia where we are waiting for the consignor to establish ownership, and 22 are still pending with the markets.

In a recent development, WSDA is now using its electronic livestock inspection system (eLID) to capture our field inspections for account holders.

In the past, field inspections done for account holders were completed on an “old school” paper certificate in order to simplify our accounting process.  We feel we are at the point now where all inspections can be done in eLID and our revenue accounting will be essentially the same.  This will make the livestock inspection process faster and easier, and we’ll be able to track all of our inspection data on our electronic system.

Swine health recommendations for pig exhibitors – (from Dr. Minden Buswell and Dr. Dana Dobbs) –

Showing pigs at fairs is a time-honored farming tradition. The downside is it puts pigs in close contact with each other and people. They’re also in a new environment with unfamiliar animals and around potentially disease-spreading equipment, like brushes and boots. These factors can increase the risk of disease for the pigs.

Some diseases can transmit between humans and pigs, not just from animal to animal. One example is influenza A, or “Swine Flu,” which has been a problem at fairs in recent years.

Another illness, Seneca Valley Virus (SVV) has recently been on the rise. Also called Senecavirus A, it’s an unfamiliar disease that presents symptoms similar to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The only way to tell the difference is through veterinary diagnostic tests, so alert your veterinarian if you find blisters around the snout, mouth or hooves, or notice general symptoms of illness like fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Before the exhibition or show

To keep your pigs healthy and limit the spread of disease, make sure you are meeting exhibition health requirements. In addition, it is a good idea to take precautions.

  • Make a biosecurity plan well before you head to an exhibition.
    • A biosecurity plan involves preparing for shows, understanding the risk factors and signs of illness, managing pig health and cleanliness while at an exhibition, and caring for your pig afterward.
  • Have your paperwork with you at the fair.
    • Files should include up-to-date health certificates, including your name, contact information, farm address, and premise identification number (PIN).
    • The health certificate should also provide updated information about each pig, such as individual identification in the form of a unique number on the PIN tag, and physical descriptions.
  • Keep your veterinarian’s phone number in your barn with your pig’s papers, and in your cell phone.
  • Use an individual, readable identification method for each pig.
    • Individual identification is a helpful way to identify a pig in the event of a health issue and/or validation of ownership.

At the exhibition or show

  • At a fair, exhibition, or sale, be sure to assess your pigs’ health on a daily basis. Here are some other recommendations:
    • Look out for common signs of illness — fever (a rectal temperature higher than 102.5), loss of appetite, lethargy, coughing, nasal discharge, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing (also called “thumping”) are all signs something may be amiss.
  • Keep the area clean by washing, disinfecting and drying equipment.
    • Do not share equipment (such as buckets, brushes, restraint devices, etc.) with other exhibitors.
  • Wash your hands or at least use hand sanitizer after handling animals and before going to other animal exhibits.
  • Change barn clothes after handling animals, especially before going to other animal exhibits.
  • Report any health issues to the exhibit manager and show veterinarian immediately.

After the exhibition/show

When pigs are brought home after the fair, disease risk can be high. Pigs from different farms are brought together and comingled with each other. Just like people can spread illness by comingling with others in a public space, pigs from varying locations and health statuses can spread illness to each other. It’s a good idea to isolate returning pigs.

  • Upon returning home, establish an isolation plan with your veterinarian, generally an isolation period should last between seven and 30 days.
    • The isolation area should be clearly designated and far away from other pigs that have not been to an exhibit.
  • Perform chores for isolated pigs at the end of the day, after you’ve worked with the other pigs.
  • Keep clothes, tools and equipment separate for each location.
    • You can also use disposable coveralls and boots.
  • Clean and wash your trailer before using it to haul other animals.

Healthy, happy pigs are an important part of the showing experience, and create a valuable learning experience for those unfamiliar with agriculture and animal husbandry. Keep your pigs’ area clean, watch for disease symptoms, and know who to contact if you suspect a health issue.

For more information, visit or view for additional biosecurity resources.

Staff news and recruitment – Kelsey South and Jody Olmstead have left our Livestock Inspection Program. Kelsey was one of our inspectors in the Spokane area.  She left the program Aug. 31 to pursue a degree in nursing.  We’re planning on using current staff to absorb her inspection workload.

Jody Olmstead covered Saturday sales at Toppenish and worked in the area between the Tri-Cities and Yakima.  Jody left the program mid-September. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors.  We are reviewing her position description and will be recruiting to fill this position.

By Dr. Brian Joseph, State Veterinarian