Viral Diseases - Beware

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Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Tortoise Trust » Sat Oct 03, 2009 8:38 am

I am posting this to reinforce the fact that you MUST take this very seriously indeed. Do not think it could not happen to you, because it can.

Please read this if you have not already done so:

http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/viral.html

This paints a realistic, and terrifying, picture of the consequences of this type of disease getting a hold in your collection of tortoises. This particular outbreak took place some years ago, but THIS IS STILL HAPPENING. Never, for one second become complacent.

These are the basic guidelines you MUST follow to minimise the risk:

1) ALWAYS maintain STRICT QUARANTINE between different species and different groups of animals.
2) Ensure that there can be NO physical transmission of body fluids/waste between pens (flies, cats, dogs can carry virus particles). Waking between pens can transfer virus. Clothes can transfer virus.
3) Use a good quality surgical quality hand wash EVERY TIME you touch different species or different groups. We recommend Hibiscrub.
4) DISINFECT all utensils and surfaces, scales, or equipment regularly and certainly between every handling of different species/groups. Virkon-S is ideal for this.
5) The more animals you have coming and going, the greater the risk. Animals from pet trade sources must be regarded as being of extreme risk (see: http://www.tortoisetrust.org/articles/herpeswarning.htm) as this type of disease is everywhere in the pet reptile trade.
6) If you have Tortoise Trust animals you MUST keep them physically TOTALLY ISOLATED from any others you may have and follow the above hygiene guidelines rigorously.
7) Do NOT take in sick animals unless you really know what you are doing and have the experience necessary to prevent accidental cross-contagion or infection with a high degree of confidence.
8) Keep different CLOSED GROUPS of animals in SEPARATE AREAS. The further apart the better.
9) NEVER touch one animal in one group and then touch another from a different group without a FULL hand wash using Hibiscrub, Betadine, or similar.
10) If you do have a disease outbreak, or even a suspected outbreak, you MUST IMMEDIATELY cease all movements of animals except to sites where there are NO OTHER TORTOISES and where FULL QUARANTINE can be established. Under no circumstances move potentially affected animals to anyone who has other tortoises. You could simply spread the disease further and kill dozens of other tortoises.

You may think the above is an over-reaction and is excessive. That is not the case. It is what is required to control the spread of these diseases. Do not underestimate the damage that an outbreak causes. You absolutely MUST follow these rules without exception. We have first hand experience of this, and prevention is better than cure - because there is no cure. A 100% mortality of affected animals is typical.

Please take this seriously, and if you are not already following these guidelines start today.

Andy Highfield
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Julie » Sat Oct 03, 2009 9:01 am

If i may add to this. If you have several species of torts and you use a bucket to carry weeds to the enclosures, NEVER put the bucket down whilst feeding,even down to footwear, this can spread disease also.Treat each species seperately. The most simplest of things can spread this disease, please be thorough in everything you do, think BEFORE you do things where contact of Tortoises are going to be made.
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Nadine Highfield » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:48 pm

We are going to be featuring this topic in both the E-News and the next printed Tortoise Trust Newsletter, and will continue to stress the danger of these viral diseases and how to prevent them from spreading throughout a collection.

There is nothing more devastating to a tortoise keeper than to discover that a viral disease has infected their collection (or spread to other tortoises). It is heartbreaking for all concerned and almost always fatal in tortoises that become symptomatic.

So, if you haven't done so already, do read the articles on this topic (starting with the ones Andy posted links to) and if you have any questions after reading them, please ask here.

Nadine Highfield
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby suej » Sat Oct 03, 2009 1:53 pm

Nadine, have the infections always started from the introduction of an already sick looking tort, or have any otherwise healthy torts brought in the virus as carriers. Also is this a problem with the aquatics or semi aquatics like the boxes and the woods?
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Nadine Highfield » Sat Oct 03, 2009 3:45 pm

Nadine, have the infections always started from the introduction of an already sick looking tort, or have any otherwise healthy torts brought in the virus as carriers.


Yes, Sue. Infected tortoises can look very healthy. Keepers may only become aware that they have a viral disease, such as herpes, after they or another tortoise they have infected becomes ill. And they may not be the first to show symptoms either. One infected tortoise can go on for years without showing any symptoms, while others just recently exposed can quickly fall ill and succumb to the virus. Some of these infected tortoises may never become symptomatic, but they are still carriers, and just as infectious as those that are visibly ill.

Also is this a problem with the aquatics or semi aquatics like the boxes and the woods?


Yes, viral diseases can and do infect aquatic and semi-aquatic species, and have been reported in both box turtles and wood turtles.

Nadine
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby insenceaddict » Sun Oct 04, 2009 6:02 pm

i read the article on the link and i cannot think of anything more devastating than to lose your whole collection. they are not just a "collection" they are members of your family. to have to make the decision to euthanise the last ones must have been absolutely heartbreaking, it upset me to read it. it is every keepers fear and the trouble is, as Nadine says, it can be there withouth you ever knowing. i have just changed to hibiscrub from my regular anitbacterial hand cleaner. it is such a worry!
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Kathy » Sun Oct 04, 2009 7:44 pm

That was a really sad article to read.

Can I ask a question please? I have two young Iberas, bought from a pet shop in April this year. I then re-homed another Ibera, Maisy from the TT at the end of August. I have been very careful with cleanliness and hygiene since having her and there has been no contact between them.

I was told that my two were captive bred in the UK, but there will always be an element of doubt where this is concerned. My TT tortoise is also said to be captive bred in the UK and is 5 years old.

My question is, if a tortoise can be a carrier and never show any signs of this virus, is there ever a safe time to allow them to live together?
Kathy
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Steve C » Mon Oct 05, 2009 8:10 am

Kathy wrote:That was a really sad article to read.
My question is, if a tortoise can be a carrier and never show any signs of this virus, is there ever a safe time to allow them to live together?


Unless a laboratory can test an animal to see if its carrying a virus but showing no symptoms, then the answer to your question, Kathy, is no.

Steve C
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby Tortoise Trust » Mon Oct 05, 2009 12:37 pm

Correct.

Bear in mind that lab tests for all known/possible viral pathogens do not yet exist.

There is a PCR test for chelonian herpes, however.

Andy
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Re: Viral Diseases - Beware

Postby insenceaddict » Mon Oct 05, 2009 1:38 pm

As i understand it though Andy, the CHV test can throw up a false negative if the tortoise is asymptomatic?
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