Erika: I’m Erika Popperlreiter here with Dr. Cassie Jones, who’s an associate professor at Kansas State University in the Animal Sciences and Industry Department. We’ve been talking a little bit about all the discussion that’s going on regarding coronavirus, and seeing some of that overlap discussion in regard to how we’ve also had this in animals. It is indeed two different things and we probably need to differentiate between those two different species. Really, when we think about the cattle industry and other areas, really what are those differences?
Dr. Cassie: What we see currently in the United States and in other areas of the globe is the coronavirus that’s starting to circulate among the human population is COVID-19. It really evolved from bats, from a bat host and eventually into humans just a few weeks ago. That’s very different than the type of coronavirus that maybe my husband will vaccinate our calves against, bovine coronavirus or other coronaviruses that we have in domesticated animals.
They’re sisters and so it’s like they’re in the same family of viruses, but they’re not exactly the same. What that means is that while humans have had coronaviruses or there’s been coronaviruses in the human population in the past, it hasn’t been this specific one. That means we have no immunity built up to this type of coronavirus and now we have a naive human population.
Erika: We’ve seen some fairly contagious diseases, especially in the swine industry that we could compare how fast coronavirus is spreading.
Dr. Cassie: Yes. Perhaps one of the best examples we have to what’s going on currently in the human population is the coronavirus that was spread through the swine population in 2013 and 2014 in the US. That was porcine epidemic diarrhea virus or PEDV. At that time, we had a number of countries that were some of our export and trading partners that had PEDV circulating across their country.
However, in the United States, we had never had an identified case. That changed in 2013 when it was introduced into the US for the first time. Because we had a naive pig herd that had no immunity built up to that coronavirus, it spread very quickly and it led to about a billion dollars in economic losses to pork producers and ultimately 3.2% total mortality to the US pork sector over time.
Erika: Can we take a few lessons from the animal industry and apply those maybe to what we’re doing? Are we seeing some similarities?
Dr. Cassie: Sure. Whenever we’re looking at a novel virus or a novel pathogen coming into a population, regardless of the situation or the species, the first thing we do is stop movement. We do that whether it’s a bacterial outbreak in cattle, or whether it is a fungal outbreak in crops. If we identify that there’s a problem going on, the first thing that we do is stop movement. That stop movement allows us to identify the situation, where are the problems, and prioritize what our next steps will be.
That same stop movement not only does it limit nose to nose or interaction and transmission of disease, it also is being done now in the human population. While we think that maybe it’s a bit of an overreaction to cancel the NCAA Tournaments or close schools and universities, it’s a pretty straightforward approach to disease management that we practice all the time in animal livestock production, where if we have a disease outbreak, the first thing that we do is stop movement and we close borders.
Erika: That’s some great background. Well, again, we’re here with Dr. Cassie Jones who’s an associate professor at Kansas State University in the Animal Sciences and Industry Department.