Haiti is currently facing an outbreak of Teschen Disease in its pigs. This is like polio for pigs. It is NOT contagious to humans but humans can spread the disease. As a volunteer travelling in Haiti you do risk accidently bringing this disease back to the USA if you are not careful. Therefore it is important that you wash your hands well after handling animals or soil. I carry disinfectant wipes with me since soap and water are not always easy to find. I also clean and disinfect my shoes if I think I may have been in contact with a contaminated area. I always do this the night before I leave Haiti and again when I get home. All my travel clothes go straight into the washing machine.
I am not telling you this to discourage you or to make you paranoid. As a veterinarian working with FTF in Haiti for 3 years, I have my hands literally in lots of diseases. I am also a farmer in California which makes me a high risk traveler and a potential threat to our food chain and my personal farm business. None of us wants to accidently be the point person who starts an epidemic. Luckily a little precaution goes a long way.
As an FTF volunteer in agriculture you will likely be asked about this disease by many Haitians. Here is some advice you can pass on that may help them get through this difficult impact to their economy and their food supply.
In Creole this disease is called Ren Casse or broken kidneys. The symptoms are as follows: Initially the pig may go off its feed and be a little depressed for a day or two. After that it may be fine with a good appetite and normal temperature. The pig then partially loses the use of its back legs. This may progress to its thighs, then rear end of its body and become a total paralysis. Severe cases are irreversible and the pigs die within a week.
There currently is no vaccine available because it has not been seen in Haiti in the last 15 years. It started in the Artibonite valley. It is suspected that it came in on a ship. I have been told that it will take a year before a vaccine can be available if at all. The incubation period is about 2 weeks. Isolation will protect the pigs but will be difficult in the long run as the virus spreads. Not all the pigs will die. The survivors will become resistant and the epidemic will pass. The big problem is that all the pigs are susceptible because it has been so long since the last infection. The good news is that it is not contagious to humans and the meat is safe to eat. What is a big problem is that the water used to wash the intestines out and rinse the meat is contaminated and will infect the area where it is dumped and infect more pigs. It is very important that this water not be fed to pigs, especially piglets who are just weaned.
It is of no value to treat the animals with antibiotics since it is a virus. Instead spend the money on feeding the pigs really well and keeping them clean. Give them lots of water and make sure it is not already contaminated. This will hopefully keep their exposure levels low so they only have a mild case and can then become resistant. Good nutrition will keep their immune systems strong. If they have parasites, worming them will help, but is best done before they get sick. Don't breed any sows while the disease is in the neighborhood as pregnancy makes them more susceptible. Once it has passed they may cautiously start breeding again. Most of the piglets will have some immunity from the mother’s colostrum and maternal antibodies, but will be susceptible to a mild form of the disease after weaning. Hygiene is thus very important at this point. After this they are resistant. These animals will then help rebuild the pig herds.
Here is some more information: http://www.thepigsite.com/diseaseinfo/121/teschen-disease http://www.thepigsite.com/pighealth/article/457/teschen-disease
Please feel free to contact me with any new information or questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck and happy holidays,