Last year it was porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus. A few years ago it was swine influenza virus. Not many years before that it was circovirus. A couple of decades before that, it was a mystery disease which became known as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). Another decade earlier, pseudorabies (Aujeszky’s disease) was the enemy. While I was in veterinary school, transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) was a big problem, along with SMEDII or parvovirus, and before that it was the great-grandfather of them all – hog cholera or classical swine fever.
When I was in veterinary school, it was the ending days of the hog cholera eradication program, and the United States was declared free of hog cholera virus while we were studying it. Had I known then what role viruses would play in the next 35 years of swine veterinary practice, I would have paid closer attention during Hank Harris’s virology class, rather than thinking about how I could get to rugby practice on time.
Fresh out of veterinary school, a whole generation of us cut our teeth on that new disease – pseudorabies. We never knew where it came from, possibly Europe – a herpes virus was the villain. It started in the late 1970s, creating a panic similar to last year’s with PED. It started in the eastern corn belt, and didn’t find its way to Nebraska for a year or two until 1980 when it really “snowballed” – no pun intended – it moved in the wintertime like TGE, and we would learn that PRRS and PED also snowballed in the winter months. Farms were trying to avoid the spread, and the term biosecurity was coined. Alex Hogg, our Nebraska Extension Swine Veterinarian, was our biosecurity advisor of the time. Pseudorabies dominated discussions for many years as members tried to learn how to reduce its spread and eliminate it from herds.
“Mystery disease” in the late ‘80s found its way into the United States from an unknown origin. It was a cluster of clinical signs under the acronym PRRS, caused by an unidentified virus. University diagnosticians were called out to farms to investigate cases. It took nearly a decade to identify the virus and develop vaccines to help manage and control this costly RNA virus which we still battle.
In the “new” century, huge numbers of pigs in growers were dying. Veterinarians and their clients were again in a state of panic and the markets were moving in response to the next big swine epidemic – porcine circovirus type 2. This time university diagnostic laboratories quickly identified the causative virus and it took only a couple of years to develop the vaccines to help control it.
Now, we’re in the PED panic. The cycle of discovering and identifying the cause was merely weeks. The efficiency of that process shared by several universities is truly an amazing accomplishment. Greg Stevenson, a key investigator at Iowa State University involved with identification of this new corona virus, must have been listening while we sat together in Hank Harris’s virology class.
The AASV has gained its identity from the challenges of each new viral disease. It is interesting to look back and observe how frequently history repeats itself. We have a long and successful chronicle of identifying and controlling disease after disease and minimizing the effects for our clients. But I’ve got news for you…. For today’s veterinarian, the challenges are not quite as clear. Or should I say, our challenges are not ONLY diseases.
Today, our challenge in addition to disease is to change the public’s paradigm about agriculture in general, their food in particular, and public perception of food-animal veterinary medicine. To meet this challenge, our AASV Board of Directors has modified our mission statement as described in Michelle Sprague’s January JSHAP “President’s message.”1 The changes are right on target!
For some time now, the AASV has stepped beyond serving and educating our members. Our Executive Director, Dr Tom Burkgren, is often called upon by the media to provide a “voice of reason” with regard to animal agricultural and food safety issues. Advocating for the health and wellbeing of pigs and for the health of the public are very important tenets for us to uphold as stewards of our food supply. The AASV may be entering an era of advocacy. As a private practitioner directly involved with people who care for pigs, expanding the role of AASV is “a little scary.” We are stepping beyond our “disease core competency.” This may lead to a little broader involvement with the public, but it is needed to enhance our professional image. I like Dr Sprague’s observation – “we are very fortunate to have an association of ‘doers’”. An association of “doers.” I can’t wait to see what we “do” next!
1. Sprague M. We’re on a mission! [President’s message]. J Swine Health Prod. 2015;23:5.
--Ron Brodersen, DVM AASV President-elect