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Rapid response program prepares swine industry for disease emergency

Article-Rapid response program prepares swine industry for disease emergency

Veterinarian filling out paperwork
Rapid response program prepares swine industry with proper tools to combat a swine health disease emergency.

By Rita Neat, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine first-year veterinary student; Maria Clavijo, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine research assistant professor; and Derald Holtkamp, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine assistant professor
Following experiences with porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and porcine delta coronavirus, the Swine Health Information Center was created. SHIC subsequently funded the creation of the Rapid Response to Emerging Diseases Program. The goal of this program is to create a nationwide network of experts who are willing and able to respond in the event of a swine health disease emergency. This program will help generate an infrastructure for industry response by training a qualified group of veterinarians to collect epidemiological and molecular information on emerging swine disease cases of known etiology.

This information will help identify operational linkages, patterns of farm-to-farm transmission, and gaps in biosecurity for an emerging or transboundary disease and improve biosecurity of the overall industry and individual producers.

About the program
The foundation of the program is a Rapid Response Corps consisting of a nationwide network of veterinary consultants, state animal health officials or representatives, epidemiologists and, when appropriate, federal animal health officials.

The United States is divided into geographical regions and RRC members are being recruited in each region so that they can quickly travel to where they are needed to conduct investigations in a timely manner. RRC members are being trained and when a disease emergency is called, RRC members will be expected to heed the call.

A standardized approach and methodology for conducting epidemiological investigations has been developed. Standard forms and summary reports previously developed for a PRRS outbreak investigation pilot project, funded by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, were used as the basis for the standard forms and reports that will be used for the RRED program. While RRC members will be trained to ask open-ended questions during the investigations, specific closed-ended questions are embedded in the investigation form to capture a consistent set of information that can be accumulated in a database. The database will serve as a primary source of information to help meet the objectives for a rapid response in the event of a novel emerging or transboundary disease.

The information gathered from all investigations will be analyzed to look for trends in how the emerging or transboundary pathogen is being transmitted from farm-to-farm. RRC members, as part of the investigation of each case, are required to assess the likelihood specific risk events were responsible for each case. This information has proven valuable for assessing the data collected for the IPPA-funded PRRSV Outbreak Investigation Program.

As an example, data on the frequency risk events were rated medium or high from 17 cases of PRRS in breeding herds is summarized in Figure 1. On-farm employee entry and cull sow removal were most frequently assessed to be a high risk (eight of 17 cases).

Iowa State University

Figure 1: Number of times a risk event was rated medium or high in 17 PRRSV outbreak investigations between 2015-17. Rating represents the likelihood that each risk event was responsible for introducing the pathogen into a herd that resulted in a case (outbreak).


While the swine industry is the primary beneficiary of the rapid response program, veterinarians who become RRC members will benefit by acquiring new skills that will help them more effectively conduct epidemiological investigations for cases of endemic diseases, such as PRRS and PED. RRC members will be better prepared to help their clients or employers identify gaps in biosecurity and prioritize where resources should be devoted to improve biosecurity.

With the RRED Program, SHIC hopes to better prepare the swine industry in the event of future emerging and transboundary diseases.

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