AASV: Improving Surveillance Keeps Emerging Diseases at Bay

ANALYSIS - The Province of Ontario is focused on emerging swine diseases and developing surveillance systems by bringing all the stakeholders together, including the government and private industry, to try and make a better system that works to detect swine diseases as early as possible.
calendar icon 13 December 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

Identifying the signs of a new or emerging disease can be a challenge, even for the most experienced producers. So when do you call in your veterinarian?

"Like most diseases, it's important for producers to have a baseline of what they're normally used to within their farm population," said George Charbonneau, veterinarian with Southwest Ontario Veterinary Services. "They'll get used to a normal number of animals in terms of mortality, number of animals sick, number of treatments that they have to administer, the number of animals they might have to cull. When it starts to change and you get a change from those normal baselines, then that triggers you to say well something unusual is going on here. At that point, that's when it's important to get a veterinarian involved to either confirm it's a disease you already had that is changing the way it's showing up on the farm or maybe it's something absolutely new. You just don't want to make that assumption."

Producers should try to have an open mind because it's hard to predict what's going to happen on their farming operation. Diseases move and shift from region to region and farm to farm, not to mention mutations within diseases that can occur.

An example of an emerging swine disease is Brachyspira hampsonii, which showed up in the US and then showed up in western Canada.

"We had the heads up that it could be moving our way into Ontario, and it was a matter of explaining to producers what were the appropriate diagnostic samples to send in to the lab so that we could detect if that organism got to the Province," Dr. Charbonneau said. "Good news so far is that B. hampsonii has not made it to Ontario yet. But we're keeping that vigilance up. The quicker you can detect if it does show up, you have a greater opportunity to contain it and maybe just walk it right back out of the Province again. That's the low-cost solution to a new problem. Speed is of the essence."

For more information about swine diagnostics, click here or connect to the Thermo Fisher Scientific Swine Resource Center.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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