The Importance of Total Swine Biosecurity

By Mark Blackwell, MA VetMB MRCVS, DAHS (courtesy IPT). - In 2001, the importance of biosecurity was underlined by the devastating Foot and Mouth (FMD) outbreaks in the UK and Europe. Having been FMD-free since 1929, the USA took stringent border control biosecurity measures to successfully avoid the horrific disease.
calendar icon 14 February 2002
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DAHS played a pivotal role in these biosecurity measures, as the disinfectant Virkon S was granted an Emergency Disease Control Label during the height of the crisis.

Emergency Label Extensions

The USDA APHIS initiated the label extension as it needed to use Virkon S to disinfect all airports, ports and on farm vehicles, equipment and footwear potentially infected with FMD virus.

It can be argued that the global threat of such serious swine infection is now even greater than at any time.

The current changes in the epidemiological pattern of pig disease mean that Governments and swine farmers worldwide must seek ways in which they can improve their biosecurity programmes to prevent serious infections such as Post-Weaning Multi-systemic Wasting syndrome (PMWS) from taking a stranglehold.

Definitive new light has recently been shed on these issues by two American studies published this year in the Journal of Swine Health and Production.

Effective against PCV2

One study assessed the use of commonly available disinfection agents against PCV2, the organism most closely associated with PMWS, and the second studied the most effective foot bath disinfection protocols.

Faced with the real world challenges of heavy organic soiling and highly resilient viruses, the two papers drew similar conclusions.

They found that the peroxygen compound, DAHS' Virkon S (dilution 1:100) is the most potent and effective virucidal disinfectant agent and has been shown to destroy PCV2 within a workable 10 minutes timeframe.

Biosecurity is frequently understood as prevention of entrance of infection into a pig farm, but true biosecurity includes this plus controlling the spread of disease within the farm.

Previously, the swine veterinarian was mainly concerned with mycoplasmal and bacterial diseases, most, of which responded well to antibiotics and some management changes.

The few viral diseases, which existed, were discrete entities.

This pattern has been changed by PMWS, PRRS (Porcine Reproductive & Respiratory Syndrome) and Swine Influenza. These immunosuppressant diseases are primarily spread by respiratory or fomite means.

They have a high morbidity and quickly allow other pathogens to cause many more problems than previously.

Medication to control disease has become less effective in the face of overwhelming challenge from complex etiology syndromes such as the Post-weaning Respiratory Syndrome.

Multiple resistance and decreased efficacy have increased costs of medication to unsustainable levels. At the same time pressure for reduced medication from commercial buyers and consumers is becoming more apparent.

Control by Management

How are we to break this new cycle of disease?

The answer lies in modern management systems (such as segregated early weaning, segregated rearing systems and production breaks) with true biosecurity.

All the new systems are based around all-in-all-out utilization of buildings or whole farms. We must aim to prevent spread of infection between different batches of pigs to enable these systems to work.

Spread of disease between batches occurs in three main ways, Static Vectors, Mobile Vectors, and, Nutrient Vectors.

Static vectors are those which remain on a site or in a house following removal of the pigs. Mobile vectors are those, which carry infection to a site or house.

Nutrient vectors are a special form of mobile vector. A list of these vectors is shown in Table 1.

For any system of Disease Control on a pig farm to be successful three key aspects are involved:
  1. Vaccination & Medication
  2. Disease Control
  3. Management
Disinfection programmes play an important part in this process.

Effective Terminal Disinfection

Terminal disinfection, at the end of a batch is used to control static vectors, while continuous disinfection can be used to control mobile vectors and nutrient vectors.

Terminal Disinfection depends on complete removal of all animals from the building or site and it is important to allow adequate time for the completion of the whole programme.

Removable equipment should be taken out and cleaned separately. Gross organic waste should be removed as this contains a high level of contamination and interferes with cleaning and disinfection. The next phase is pre-cleansing and sanitising. The aim of this is to remove further organic waste and start killing infected material.

At this stage all moveable equipment should be soaked or washed in a similar sanitising agent.

Water systems should be drained, gross dirt removed, refilled and disinfected using Virkon S. Following this we are ready for the disinfection stage. Here use a broad spectrum product to reduce the residual infectious burden.

With modern disease patterns it is essential to use a product with a proven virucidal activity. Finally allow the house to dry, and as a last phase apply a phase of aerial disinfection or fogging using Virkon S.

For a programme of continuous disinfection to be effective it is essential to prevent or reduce pathogen introduction with pigs entering the building.

While this mainly depends on control of intrinsic infection within the pig, mechanical carriage can be reduced by washing or spraying with a disinfectant prior to entry.

This is especially important in the farrowing house.

Control of Visitors

Control of spread of infection by human vectors is based around control of visitors and movement around a unit, clothes worn and cleaning between rooms or departments.

Foot dips containing should be regularly used and replenished as contaminated. Hand disinfection is overlooked on most units. Hands should be washed and sanitized between houses or even more often.

Work patterns should encourage movement only from clean areas to more dirty areas.

Equipment should ideally be moved around a unit as little as possible. When it is moved it should be washed and disinfected. Tractors and scrapers are two real problem areas that need special attention, but also remember their operator.

Vehicles entering the unit or its surrounds can introduce disease, and need control. Pig deliveries should be into a separate isolation facility.

Pig collection lorries should be empty and disinfected prior to arrival. A proper loading bay should be provided and loading bay discipline maintained.

Feed lorries should be kept outside the perimeter if possible. Bulk delivery hoses are a special hazard and ideally every farm should have its own.

A well constructed wheel dip should be sited between the unit and the road. Drivers should change into unit overalls and boots if they must enter the unit.

Control of rodents can be especially important. Here regular and correct baiting will provide good control, but also consider house design and work practices, which can be utilized to reduce problems.

Flies can spread pathogens and control is by a combination of good hygiene, insecticide usage and possibly dung active agents.

Geographical Coinsiderations

Reduction of aerial spread is one of the more difficult areas. Geographical considerations such as siting of unit are obvious, but more local factors such as positioning of buildings in a unit, position of ventilation outlets and inlets, and pig movement routes all play a part.

Filtration of air entering a building is being investigated, but is not practicable on most units. The main control of spread is be fogging and aerial Disinfection.

This can be used to reduce spread of infection between buildings and within buildings.

Buildings can be fogged daily or even more frequently in problem times. A good distribution system such as a mechanical fogger is essential.

The agent Virkon S is ideal for this as it has a broad spectrum of activity including virucidal effects, and is safe to use in this way.

Reduction of nutritional vectors is two phased. Water system Disinfection has been covered above. Water sanitation is needed to prevent any build up of pathogens following previous system Disinfection.

Using Virkon S this can be done while pigs are in the building and a periodic regime should be established.

Control of disease spread by food is more complex. Purchase food or raw materials from a reputable store. This source should routinely monitor materials for pathogens, especially Salmonellae. The source should not be able to be infected by pigs in its immediate area.

Material or containers which have been on another pig unit should never be accepted. Movement of these within a pig unit should also be controlled.

Delivery vehicles should be kept outside the unit.


To summarize, modern diseases have brought new challenges to the pig industry. These can only be controlled by the application of modern production systems coupled with an extensive system of true biosecurity including disinfection using proven broad spectrum biocides which include a virucidal activity.
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