Advocacy in action
Swine industry implements group to address emerging diseases

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) has been working with the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a response plan for emerging swine diseases. A draft of this plan currently in development, entitled the Emerging Swine Production Disease (ESPD) Plan, includes a recommendation to institute an advisory group called the Swine Disease Response Council (SDRC). The SDRC members will represent producers, veterinarians, state and federal animal health officials, and researchers.

The SDRC is fashioned along the lines of the Pseudorabies Control Board. The control board was instrumental during the pseudorabies eradication program to evaluate issues and offer recommendations to USDA and state animal health officials to further the eradication effort. Drs Matt Ackerman and Tim Snider represent AASV on the SDRC, and Dr Harry Snelson provides AASV staff support.

An ESPD differs from a foreign animal disease (FAD) in designation as well as in who has the responsibility for determining and conducting the response. If an FAD is suspected or diagnosed, state and federal animal health officials will take the lead and activate the response plan. Industry will play a supportive role. An ESPD is an emerging disease that is negatively impacting swine producers, but determined not to be an FAD. In this case, the swine industry will take the lead on determining the response, if any. SHIC will be notified and will coordinate analysis, characterization, and prioritization for research.

The purpose of the SDRC is to offer recommendations on how the industry and animal health officials should respond to emerging diseases. While the council has no legal authority and its recommendations are not binding, it is an industry-led collaborative group of stakeholders with the goal of rapidly bringing all interested parties together to evaluate an emerging situation and develop a strategy for addressing the outbreak. The SDRC held its inaugural meeting on June 21. The objective of the meeting was to increase members’ knowledge of the ESPD Plan and to apply the knowledge using historical emerging disease outbreaks as test cases for the plan.

As outlined in the ESPD Plan, during an emerging disease event SHIC would work in collaboration with the USDA’s Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health to identify and characterize the event. SHIC could then deploy Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) to conduct diagnostic and epidemiological investigations to provide additional information. Industry stakeholders would consider the information and determine whether or not to activate the SDRC. If activated, the SDRC would analyze the information collected and provide recommendations regarding potential response options and identify resource needs.

The RRTs play an integral role in describing the outbreak at the farm level. It is essential that these teams are mobilized quickly and complete their work with urgency, that results are rapidly communicated, and that the SDRC has initial information on which to make recommendations within a goal of 4 days. The RRTs should work to identify the index case(s), identify the extent of geographical spread, and attempt to determine the source of the infection.

The SDRC would provide ongoing recommendations as the situation changes, based on reporting back of progress on the response options recommended. Potential response options are listed below and described in greater detail in the draft ESPD Plan. These options represent a range of potential actions, both passive and active, that could be taken, and the response council may recommend as many options as they feel would be valuable in addressing the emerging disease situation.

Passive response options:

  1. No response.
  2. Maintain/expand situational awareness.
  3. Referral.

Active response options:

  1. Investigation of epidemiologically distinct cases.
  2. Disease reporting for investigation purposes and situational awareness.
  3. Voluntary disease reporting/surveillance projects for research, investigation purposes, and situational awareness.
  4. Mandatory disease reporting for investigation purposes and situational awareness.
  5. Diagnostic and biological development.
  6. Field investigative studies (nationally coordinated).
  7. Coordinated surveillance in US swine.
  8. Disease control measures (voluntary).
  9. Disease control measures (regulatory).

Resources are always a limiting factor when addressing an emerging disease. Timeliness is critical. The ability to rapidly and efficiently respond is often hindered by a lack of qualified people to collect samples and conduct response activities. The ESPD Plan proposes that the swine industry could work independently or cooperatively with state and federal animal-health authorities to develop a certification program. For this approach to be successful the plan would need to be developed to determine the objectives of the certification program, the surveillance necessary for certification, the response plan for when the disease is found, and funding pathways necessary to maintain the program and measures of success and failure.

The ESPD document identifies two response phases for ESPD outbreaks: the Investigation Phase and the Decision Phase. The Investigation Phase is the period of time from the suspected, presumptive, or confirmed presence of an ESPD in the United States until evidence is gathered to estimate the extent of the outbreak. During this phase the SHIC will coordinate the mobilization of RRTs with state and federal animal-health officials. The Decision Phase is the period of time where information from the investigation is analyzed, the incident is typed as 1, 2, or 3, and recommended actions are developed and implemented to mitigate the incident.

The incident types are defined as follows:

TYPE 1 – Short-term disease strategies are warranted. The infection is of a known etiology and limited to a few premises, and the risk pathways can be mitigated. TYPE 1B differs only in that the etiology is unknown.

TYPE 2 – Medium-term disease control strategies warranted. The infection is of a known etiology and spread is limited to a few focal areas. There is adequate knowledge about the disease, but little to no likelihood of controlling it using movement controls or depopulation. Disease spread is expected to be minimized using vaccine, treatment, or control strategies, and the needed tools will shortly be available to mitigate the negative impacts on animal health, welfare, and producer profitability. Again, TYPE 2B indicates an unknown etiology.

TYPE 3 – Long-term disease control strategies needed. The infection (of known or unknown etiology) is widespread with little chance for control. It is expected to take greater than 1 year to develop the needed tools and information to mitigate negative effects of the disease on swine health and welfare and producer profitability.

Hopefully, this has given you some insight into the plan for responding to emerging production diseases going forward. This plan is part of a multi-faceted strategy to detect, track, prevent, and respond to emerging swine disease threats globally. The ESPD Plan is a living document and is currently under review by USDA and industry stakeholders. A draft of the plan can be viewed at

Harry Snelson, DVM
Director of Communications