BOVINE VIRAL DIARRHEA VIRUS AND ALPACAS
What is Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus (BVDV) doing on an alpaca site? The bovine virus has been found in the North American alpaca herds since 2001. So what's the big deal you ask? Well, it could have devastating consequences to the alpaca community financially.
What is BVDV?
Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus is an RNA virus. It has been recognized in the cattle industry since 1946.
Most of the time the virus is inapparent or subclinical. BVDV causes acute (short term) and persistent infections. Symptoms, if seen, can be one or more of the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Ulcers of oral and nasal mucosa
Infected alpacas spread BVDV through the air, manure, and in body secretions.
An acute infection is dealt with by an alpacas immune system like any other virus. They're sick, the immune system takes care of the virus, they recover, they become immune.
A persistent infection is just that, persistent. The alpaca is persistently infected (PI) and becomes a permanent carrier of the Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus. The animal will shed several billion particles of the virus a day which continually transmits the virus to your herd. A PI alpaca may do poorly but many appear normal.
So how does an alpaca become persistently infected? When a pregnant female gets BVDV, she passes the virus on to her fetus. The fetus may abort because the virus has killed it. Or the fetus survives, can't fight the virus, and do not develope antibodies for that particular virus for the rest of it's life making it persistently infected.
Though this disease is rare in alpacas at this time, at least 40 PI alpacas have been diagnosed since 2001 in the North American alpaca herds.
What is the impact of a PI animal? If you breed alpacas, you don't want your pregnant females coming down with BVDV and aborting. You don't want a PI animal born to your farm causing more abortions and PI cria.
You must remove the PI animal from your herd either by euthanizing or complete and permanent quarantine.
Do not purchase infected alpacas. Have the animal tested and cleared at purchase. If you purchase a pregnant animal, have the cria tested soon after birth. If the alpaca or cria is PI positive, make sure your contract says you will receive a full refund of the purchase price of the animal.
Do not take your animals to a show if there is no requirement to prove that all alpacas brought to the show are free of the virus. If you do take it to a show with untested animals, practice bio-security on your farm.
Bio-security means having an area to quarantine alpacas that come from shows or other farms with untested animals. Quarantine for 30 days. Control the human traffic at your farm. Do not allow people on your farm without clean shoes and coveralls.
Do not allow your alpacas to co-mingle with cattle or be next to a neighbors field with cattle.
Test any animal for Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus, especially cria, with unexplained illnesses. Cria that don't do well and aborted fetuses should be tested for the disease. If you have a PI alpaca, contact any farm that may have been exposed to your animal so they can follow-up with their herd to prevent the spread of BVDV.
No BVDV vaccinations are available for alpacas at this time. Keep in touch with your vet for any emerging information. Your vet will know the proper samples to send to the lab for testing.
The importance of keeping this disease from spreading through the alpaca herds can not be overstated. The financial loss from aborted fetuses or crias you have to euthanize because of PI could be devastating to a breeder.
Continually educate yourself on alpaca health. Become familiar with Bovine Viral Diarrhea Virus so you know how to protect your herd and the alpaca community from losses.
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