The Vestre Toten farm was found to be the only piggery, of 1,000 pig herds tested in a countrywide testing programme by Mattilsynet in the first week of July, to return positive results for the MRSA bacteria. A preliminary inquiry by Mattilsynet has linked the MRSA outbreak, discovered during veterinary checks in mid-July, to an infected seasonal farm worker from Ukraine. The initial findings by Mattilsynet indicated the infected pigs contracted the disease from this MRSA-infected worker, who was immediately hospitalised.
Following the outbreak on the mixed pig and dairy farm, Mattilsynet established a working group to examine what new measures were needed to further control the use of antibiotics on farm animals in Norway.
"The present rules are unclear as to how farmers should medicate animals under their care. The likely outcome is that we produce a revised list of infectious diseases that farmers are allowed to treat with antibiotics. We want to narrow the current practice. Many veterinarians already adhere to practices which we consider acceptable, but others go far beyond what is acceptable and this leaves too much of the decision-making with farmers," Torunn Knævelsrud, director of the animal welfare and fish health department at Mattilsynet, told globalmeatnews.com.
According to Knævelsrud, Mattilsynet’s investigations have drawn a direct link between the use of antibiotics and the development of resistant bacteria in farm animals in Norway.
Health professionals have urged Mattilsynet to bolster surveillance of animal care standards on farms in Norway, while also adopting tougher measures to prevent the MRSA bacteria from entering from other countries.
"One urgent initiative Norwegian authorities need to take is to ban the import of pork from countries like Denmark, until we are certain that farms and slaughterhouses in these countries are MRSA-free," said Steinar Westin, a professor of public health and medicine at the Trondheim-based Norwegian University of Science & Technology (Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet).