PRRS Corner: Epidemiological Study of Air Filtration Systems for Preventing PRRSV Infection in Large Sow Herds

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) is the most economically significant pathogen in the US swine industry. Aerosol transmission among herds is a major concern in pig dense regions and filtration of incoming air, in combination with standard biosecurity procedures, has been demonstrated to prevent transmission of PRRSV into susceptible herds. To quantify the impact of air filtration on reducing risk of PRRSV outbreaks, we compared the incidence rate of new PRRSV introductions in 20 filtered and 17 non-filtered control sow herds in a swine dense region of North America during a 7 year study period. Events of novel virus introduction were ascertained by phylogenetic analysis of PRRSV ORF5 gene sequences. Putative new viruses were defined as exogenous (introduced) based on ORF5 nucleotide sequence differences compared to previous farm isolates. The influence of sequence difference cut-off values ranging from 2 to 10% on case definition and relative risk were evaluated. Non-filtered farms incurred about 0.5 outbreaks per year, with a seasonal increase in risk in cooler periods. Baseline risk, prior to filtration, in treatment farms was approximately 0.75 per year, approximately 50% higher than in control farms. Air filtration significantly reduced risk of PRRSV introduction events to 0.06–0.22 outbreaks per year, depending on the cut-off values used to classify a virus isolate as new to the herd. Overall, air filtration led to an approximately 80% reduction in risk of introduction of novel PRRSV, indicating that on large sow farms with good biosecurity in swine-dense regions, approximately four-fifths of PRRSV outbreaks may be attributable to aerosol transmission.

Alonso, C., et al., Epidemiological study of air filtration systems for preventing PRRSV infection in large sow herds. PREVET (2013),