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Protecting the U.S. Swine Herd

After the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) devastated U.S. swine herds in 2013, pork producers demanded preparedness and response help from the National Pork Board. In 2015, the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) was formed with a one-time research grant from the Pork Board. The SHIC mission is to protect and enhance the health of the U.S. swine herd through global disease monitoring, research investments that minimize the impact of future disease threats, and analysis of swine health data. 

Hitching a ride on Feed

Paul Sundberg, DVM, is the executive director of SHIC. He says one of the first funded research projects studied the potential for viruses to contaminate and survive in feed ingredients under shipping conditions. The research was conducted by Pipestone Applied Research and South Dakota State University.

Preliminary data indicate the viruses Senecavirus A, bovine herpesvirus-1, and PRRSV, survived during the 37-day study period.

Feed ingredients supporting virus survival include soybean meal, lysine, choline, and vitamin D, and, in some cases, dried distillers’ grains (DDGs). None of the viruses survived the 37-day incubation period in the absence of a feed component matrix. 

These results suggest that contaminated feed ingredients could serve as vehicles for foreign animal disease into the U.S. and possibly circulation of viruses within the country.

Further research has already begun. This process will include testing of a variety of feed additives that might be able to neutralize these pathogens when added to feed during milling or other processes that may help mitigate risk. 

Heat treatment during corn processing into DDGs and soybean conversion into SBM should neutralize pathogens present on the corn kernel or bean prior to processing. However, research at Kansas State University has shown the potential for PED virus contamination of feed during the milling process if PEDV is present within the feed mill, emphasizing the need for feed mill biosecurity plans. More information is needed about oral viral infective doses to accurately assess risk.

Near Real-time Disease Monitoring 

SHIC is also funding a near real-time monitoring system for swine diseases around the world. This will include identification of potential hazards due to new diseases or changes in current disease status, screening steps to evaluate the information collected, and informing the U.S. pork industry through regular, timely reporting. 

Information sources may be classified as soft or unofficial (unconfirmed rumors or data) and hard or official (confirmed by national or international agencies). 

On a regular basis, data will be evaluated by a group of swine health experts, including the USDA, and a report will be generated. The summary will include interpretation from the experts. The information will be graded to reflect a consensus of risk to the U.S. pork industry, and the report will help guide preventive and preparedness steps. The system will be operational in 2018. 

Rapid Response Corps 

The SHIC Rapid Response Program will enable investigations of emerging swine disease outbreaks. A Rapid Response Corps of veterinarians, state and federal animal health officials, and veterinary epidemiologists are being trained for deployment in several regions of the U.S. 

When a swine disease investigation is requested by a producer or veterinarian, SHIC will engage Rapid Response Corps members. Within 72 hours of invitation, a team will be on site to conduct the epidemiological investigation that could find pathways of disease introduction and ways to limit the outbreak.

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