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Dealing with the Ambiguity of COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to impact our personal and professional lives in ways thought unimaginable just a few months ago, we find ourselves filled with uncertainty and forced to confront a level of ambiguity most of us aren't comfortable dealing with. We don't know how long hog slaughter will be below the capacity needed to prevent market hog euthanasia. [Source: National Hog Farmer 26 May 2020, by Clayton Johnson]

In states that aren't opening up, we don't know when we'll be able to start getting back to normal. In states that are opening up, we don't know how severe the consequences of more travel, personal contact and increased disease transmission will be. The uncertainty leads to ambiguity, the ambiguity leads to anxiety and if we're not careful the anxiety will cause emotional and often short-sighted decision making. Fortunately, there are tried and true steps you can take to calm anxiety and reduce stress while accepting that ambiguity will be a part of our life for the foreseeable future.

As has often been the case with COVID-19, we as pig producers and veterinarians see analogies with managing the COVID-19 disease outbreak based on our understanding of disease management in our pig herds. We have long known about the importance of hygiene and sanitation; we live it every day at our farms. We understand strategies like isolation of high-risk individuals and have employed these practices for years. We certainly wish we could see our human population quickly implement our lessons learned in population testing strategies including less invasive sampling (Oral fluid samples for COVID-19 sampling!) and the obvious benefits of pooling samples to stretch still limited COVID-19 test kits.

Perhaps most importantly, we know the negative effects of the ambiguity that comes with a disease outbreak that can overwhelm our caretaker teams without appropriate coaching and coping strategies. While we think about it relative to a porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome or porcine epidemic diarrhea outbreak at a sow farm, the same approach should be applied now for COVID-19.

I've heard my good friend Fred Kuhr say it many times, "PRRS-itis" is way worse than PRRS itself. We have to keep a positive mental attitude and take incremental improvement steps whenever the opportunity presents itself. Goals, targets and standards need to be adjusted to reflect the reality of our situation -- we can't expect our industry to perform anywhere near normal levels while we find our supply chain bottleneck distressed and unable to accommodate the supply of market hogs we need to harvest.

So how do we deal with the effects of increased ambiguity and its associated stress and anxiety?

Find out by reading the rest of the story at National Hog Farmer.