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This article was published in 1943
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INSTITUTE OF INSPECTORS OF STOCK OF N.S.W. YEAR BOOK.

SWINE FEVER OUTBREAK IN NEW SOUTH WALES

H. G. BELSCHNER, D.V.Sc., H.D.A. Deputy Chief, Division of Animal Industry.

On the 14th December, 1942, a swill feeder from Matraville despatched 117 pigs to the Homebush Saleyards for sale next day. One pig died during the night and another in the yards that day (15/12/42) and a report from the veterinary officer inspecting at the yards indicated that a disease suspiciously like Swine Fever had caused the mortality. As there had been no Swine Fever in Australia for just over 14 years, it was considered more likely to be Swine Erysipelas. Specimens were sent to Glenfield, in order to ascertain the infecting organism and the balance of the pigs were slaughtered the same day at the abattoirs when five were condemned for septicaemia. An immediate investigation on the property from which the pigs came at Matraville did not reveal anything suspicious. Inspections were carried out each day at least once, but nothing significant was noticed until the afternoon of the 19th December, when two pigs were found to be scouring. On the 20th, more pigs were scouring, and some were vomiting. One pig was dead and lesions found on post-mortem examination of this animal, which the owners stated had not been doing well for two or three weeks, were not significant. On the 22nd a further pig was found to have died overnight, and post-mortem examination of this animal showed lesions suggestive of Swine Fever. Defibrinated blood and other specimens, and also two sick pigs were taken to Glenfield. Six more pigs died that day and on the 23rd it was found that four more had died overnight. The clinical picture now so strongly resembled Swine Fever that although sufficient time had not elapsed for transmission tests at Glenfteld to be completed, a diagnosis was made. Forty-two sick pigs were killed out that day and the following day, 24th, a telegram was despatched to all States as follows:—

"Outbreak infectious disease pigs metropolitan area one piggery affected assuming Swine Fever pending laboratory tests."

The balance of the pigs on this piggery were destroyed the same day.

Action was now taken to declare the County of Cumberland a quarantine area on account of the suspected presence of Swine Fever. Subsequently, circulars were despatched to all concerned and a plan of campaign drawn up.

On 30/12/42, the diagnosis of Swine Fever was confirmed. A pig inoculated at Glenfield with a bacteria-free filtrate from material from those pigs which died at the saleyards developed Swine Fever.

A list of all people who purchased pigs at the saleyards on the 15th December, and also at the following sale on the 22nd December was obtained, with the object of follow up inspections. The sales of fat pigs at Homebush were not stopped throughout the outbreak. Movement of pigs for sale for slaughter only was allowed after inspection and issue of permit.

Before much could be done in the way of follow-up inspection, an outbreak occurred on the property of a man who purchased pigs at the sale on the 15th December. This was quickly followed by other outbreaks and the position on the 8th January, 1943, when the total number of outbreaks was 26—all within the County of Cumberland, with the exception of one outbreak at The Oaks, via Camden—was, that the majority of people who purchased pigs at the sales on either the 15th or 22nd December had suffered outbreaks of the disease. In addition, there were several outbreaks on piggeries not associated with the purchase of pigs at these sales, but the owner or someone from the piggery had visited the saleyards on these days. Subsequently, outbreaks occurred on piggeries adjoining or in close proximity to outbreaks.

Fifteen outbreaks appear to have been associated with the feeding of swill. Of these, 11 owners obtained swill from camps of the armed forces. The first of these was the original outbreak at Matraville, where pigs were fed on swill from various sources, including a military compound at a Sydney hospital. The second was at Ingleburn, where pigs were fed on swill from the Ingleburn Camp and the third was at The Oaks, near Camden, where the pigs were fed swill from the Allied Works Camp, they in turn having obtained their supplies from the Narellan Military Camp.

The total number of outbreaks up to 23rd January, 1943, was 39, all in County Cumberland, with the exception of the outbreak at The Oaks. At this date a mortality in pigs at the P.O.W. Camp at Hay and on several small piggeries in the vicinity, where swill from the P.O.W. Camp was fed were suspicious for Swine Fever, although the clinical picture was rather atypical. Transmission experiments resulted in a positive diagnosis of the disease at the P.O.W. Camp and one other piggery.

On 6/1/43, mortality in pigs suspiciously like Swine Fever was reported from Albury. This was confirmed by transmission experiments at Glenfield on 27/1/43, and was followed by public quarantine of the Parishes of Albury, Mungabarina and Thurgona. The outbreak in this area has been confined to the one piggery. Early in February, a scare occurred at Wagga, where sickness and mortality was reported in pigs at the local saleyards. Transmission experiments were negative. The total number of outbreaks of the disease to date in N.S.W. is:

County of Cumberland 45
The Oaks 1
Albury 1
Hay 2
Total 49

The slaughter of all pigs on affected properties was carried out after the pigs had been valued. In the County of Cumberland this was done within a few days of clinical diagnosis of the disease, from observations made by the Veterinary Officer, and from specimens submitted to Glenfield. A great many transmission experiments were done at Glenfield, and where there was any doubt about diagnosis, the result of the transmission was awaited before slaughtering out.

The total number of pigs destroyed to date is slightly less than 10,000, and the total compensation paid is in the vicinity of £40,000.

There are two possible causes for the recent outbreak of Swine Fever in New South Wales.

(1) From infected pig meats received in Sydney from Western Australia.

(2) From American pig meats received in Sydney.

Neither of these suppositions have been definitely proved. There is very strong circumstantial evidence, however, that the Western Australian outbreak was associated with American pig meats imported for the U.S.A. troops.

Suspected Swine Fever in Western Australia was reported on the 3rd November, 1942, and confirmed on 9th November, 1942. Immediate steps were taken by our Department to intensify routine piggery inspections, to notify other authorities of the danger, to advise all Veterinary Officers and Inspectors of Stock to be on the watch for the disease, and to trace all shipments of pig meats which had recently arrived from Western Australia. The piggery on which later the first cases were recorded in this State was inspected about this time (26th November), no sickness being observed.

At that time the Western Australian Department considered that all pigs which had left Western Australia within 30 days of the recording of the outbreak (October 28th) were from pigs killed at least 30 days prior to the first incidence of the disease. i.e., that all these shipments could be considered as free from the disease. This information, in conjunction with an investigation by our Department, indicated that no suspected pig meats had reached New South Wales. However, later investigations in Western Australia indicated that the outbreak had commenced on or about the end of September, and that on October 15th infected pigs from this property had been sold for slaughter.

In mid-October, and again in mid-November, 315 tons of pig meats arrived in New South Wales by boat from Western Australia under Army contract. These pig meats were originally intended for overseas consumption, but were at the last minute directed to New South Wales. By the same boats other Western Australian pig meats also arrived, and were almost immediately distributed to a number of wholesale butchers. It is reported that the pigs comprising the shipments had been slaughtered between 29th April and 5th September, so that unless the outbreak in Western Australia occurred some time prior to the first report of Swine Fever in late September, these pig meats should not have been infected. However, it is possible that the outbreak in Western Australia had occurred at this early date, and that infected pigs had been slaughtered.

The distribution of the army shipments has been followed up, and according to the date upon which the first pig meats were released by the Army Supply Section on or about 14th December, it is difficult to trace a connection between the Army shipment and the first outbreak in pigs from Matraville (December 14th). The Army had supplied pig meats from the consignment to a Military Compound at a Sydney hospital, from whence garbage was removed by the owner of the pigs involved in the first outbreak. It is more likely that the distribution of the private consignment of the 16th November which reached the market soon afterwards, was responsible for the first outbreak at least.

All the hotels, restaurants, cafes, hospitals, etc., from whence the garbage was drawn for the pigs involved in the first outbreak were visited and information sought as to whether their food supplies contained any American pig meats. No evidence of such supplies could be obtained and the United States Army authorities also indicated that no United States pig meats had been in use in their camps.

As previously stated, the owner of the pigs involved in the first outbreak of Swine Fever had collected garbage from a Military Compound at a Sydney Hospital, but he also obtained garbage from a number of other institutions and cafes, any of which may have purchased pork which arrived in Sydney from Western Australia on the 16th November. In addition, the Matraville pig owner obtained garbage from the American Centre in Sydney, and it is possible that, even though the management stated that no U.S.A. pig meats were introduced, some small supplies of pig meats, perhaps included in a parcel to some American soldier, had been used at the centre.

As no subsequent outbreaks of Swine Fever could be shown or have been suspected of having originated before the first Matraville outbreak, it is assumed that this outbreak was the first in New South Wales.

Finally, It can be stated that towards the end of December, 1942, this State was confronted after a period of fourteen years freedom, with a serious outbreak of Swine Fever. At the end of January, 1943, the disease was well under control. A few isolated outbreaks continued to occur during February and March in the County of Cumberland, and the last outbreak was on 22nd February.

We are not yet "out of the wood," and strict precautionary measures will have to continue for some time. Infected pig meats would be capable of setting up a fresh outbreak for many months, if scraps are not thoroughly boiled before feeding to pigs. It is unlikely, however, that a repetition of the circumstances which lead to the outbreak in Western Australia and possibly here will recur.

The outbreak has been watched very closely by the Deputy Controller of Defence Foodstuffs. His comments in a minute issued by the Defence Foodstuffs Advisory Committee in February are of Interest. He states: "Serious though the position is as regards supplies of pig meats, it could easily have been much worse, and may have become a disaster of the first magnitude. The period of danger has not passed, but there is cause for optimism, based on the efficiency of the control measures taken by the State and the whole hearted co-operation of all concerned in aiding the Department of Agriculture's efforts."

 


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