What PED taught us about handling future disease outbreaks

The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) outbreak that devastated many US hog farms over the past 4 years served as a wake-up call for the pork industry to be more vigilant against foreign animal diseases.
calendar icon 24 October 2017
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“We know what to do in the case of foreign animal diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever and African swine fever,” Dustin Oedekoven, DVM, South Dakota state veterinarian, said.
He thinks the industry also has a “fairly clear direction” about how to handle future investigations and where to submit diagnostic samples.

More coordination needed

“But when it comes to newly emerging diseases that are not on the foreign animal disease list, it is a little less clear,” he told Pig Health Today.

“One gap that became evident [with the PEDV outbreak] is we weren’t working in a coordinated manner to control the spread of the disease. As a result, it spread very rapidly because the swine industry was very naïve to the virus.”

Oedekoven said much of the response to the PED outbreak was positive, though. Veterinarians worked with producers to identify the critical problems. Samples were submitted to diagnostic labs for routine workup. And when the expected diseases weren’t found, the labs initiated additional diagnostic tests and were able to identify PEDV.

Other diagnostic labs worked collaboratively to develop a rapid test to identify the virus. However, a break in communications caused a gap in timely response to the disease.

‘Not very nimble’

“I think, specifically, my colleagues in state and federal animal-health agencies were not very nimble in working with vets and diagnostic labs to limit the spread of the disease,” he said.

“So, I encourage those involved to communicate more with each other. We need to work through challenges ahead of time to understand what we will do in the event of new emerging diseases.”
He noted that the Swine Health Information Center is helping by funding research to study how best to prevent and fight outbreaks of newly emerging and foreign swine diseases.

In addition, Oedekoven said he supported the development of a master plan to address how new disease outbreaks are handled. A plan will help everyone involved become familiar with how to prepare for the unknown.

In such a plan, veterinarians and producers “are the first line of defense against foreign and emerging pathogens,” Oedekoven added. “They are the ones recognizing the clinical signs of increased diarrhea, increased respiratory diseases, unusual mortality or morbidity.”

He hopes to instill awareness among producers of how important it is to contact a veterinarian if something unusual shows up. “Don’t be afraid to make the call or share it with others,” he said, adding that early detection is key to reducing the spread of a devastating disease like PEDV.

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