Preparing for the next swine disease outbreak in the US

Paul Sundberg, executive director of SHIC, speaks to The Pig Site's Sarah Mikesell at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians conference
calendar icon 1 May 2019
clock icon 3 minute read

SHIC focuses on four different things. One - monitoring for diseases, looking over the hill to try to predict what could come at us. Doing a better job of prediction by using swine health data and analysing that data to look for emerging diseases," said Sundberg. "Preparedness is another area. We need to be better prepared for those things that are going to come because we know we can't stop them, so we have to be better prepared when they get here. Then response - what happens when we get it? How can we be better in responding to an outbreak? A big lesson from the PED outbreak was how can we improve response."

Diagnostics Role

Diagnostics falls within the area of preparedness. The SHIC team developed and prioritised a list of 44 viruses that can infect pigs.

"One very important foundational project for the Center is to develop diagnostics around that list. Start at the top and make sure that we have the ability to 1) detect them, so that means we look to see if we have good PCR tests that are available and are usable in the labs. If that doesn't happen, we help develop them," he explained. "The second thing is to work on antibody detection, so we either have to detect the virus itself or detect the reaction to the virus in the pig."

Antibody detection is typically either through serology or oral fluids. Again, if those tests aren't available, the SHIC team will work to have them developed in an effort to help make the US better prepared for emerging swine diseases.

"We also use diagnostics for monitoring through detection, however the monitoring part of the Center is really the "swine vine" type of network - I've got a working group who have contacts all around the world," Sundberg said. "We do periodic surveys of those contacts and ask them what are the top swine diseases they're dealing with right now. That gives us a heads up on what we need to do to be better prepared."

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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