February 2021 SHIC eNewsletter

As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIC continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness, and response to novel and emerging swine disease for the benefit of US swine health. As a conduit of information and research, SHIC encourages sharing of its publications and research. Forward, reprint, and quote SHIC material freely. SHIC is funded by America’s pork producers to fulfill its mission to protect and enhance the health of the US swine herd. For more information, visit https://www.swinehealth.org or contact Dr. Sundberg at [email protected].

February 4 Webinar Addresses PRRS Strain 1-4-4 Outbreaks

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) and American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) will host a webinar on porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) strain 1-4-4 which is making a notable appearance in veterinary diagnostic lab data The webinar will be held on Thursday, February 4, 2021, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm. Dr. Mariana Kikuti, Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Giovani Trevisan, Swine Disease Reporting System, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Stephanie Rossow, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, will present perspectives on PRRS 1-4-4.

The increase in PRRS 1-4-4 diagnoses was noticed during review of the monthly SHIC Domestic Swine Disease Monitoring Report to be published in early February. Advisory Committee members who review the reports before posting called the strain’s appearance relevant, noting changes seem to be increased viremia levels and clinical severity. The virus also seems to be very fit for area spread, they cautioned, also saying temperatures and environmental conditions are right for increased spread, enhancing the risk of PRRS 1-4-4 outbreaks. Advisory Committee members remarked this strain seems to have very similar sow farm signs, as well as in downstream pigs, while it appears to require a prolonged time to stabilize sow units with an outbreak of PRRS 1-4-4.

Dr. Kikuti will share information on the PRRS 1-4-4 outbreak using data from the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project as early warnings were communicated to participants in December 2020 to begin an epidemiological investigation. Data summarizing case occurrence in time and space together with sequence similarity characterizing the outbreak will be shared. Dr. Trevisan will share information on PRRSV genetic variability over time and across regions using the Swine Disease Reporting System database, highlighting the changes on RFLP 1-4-4 detected during 2020, emphasizing the perception of the Swine Disease Reporting System Advisory Committee members. Dr. Rossow will share information gained from University of Minnesota veterinary diagnostic lab work with practitioners who are seeing outbreaks of this virus.

SHIC/AASV sponsored webinars bring together subject matter experts to discuss current issues facing US pork producers and practitioners. Past topics have included viral myelitis, tracheitis, coccidiosis, lameness/arthritis, and porcine astrovirus type 3. Conducted by the Iowa State University Swine Medicine Education Center (SMEC), webinar participants include practitioners with first-hand experience with the topic being discussed, diagnosticians, and other experts. Completed webinars are posted online for convenient access here.

Do you have a recommendation for a topic to be addressed in this format? SHIC and AASV would like your input! Reach out to SHIC Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg at [email protected] or AASV Director of Public Health and Communications Dr. Abbey Canon at [email protected] with your webinar recommendations.

SHIC 2021 Plan of Work Builds on Progress and Adds New Emphases

The Swine Health Information Center’s (SHIC) 2021 Plan of Work (POW) was approved by the SHIC Board of Directors during their January 28, 2021, meeting. While SHIC’s mission remains unchanged since inception, this annual review of projects and priorities directs actions. The POW is divided into sections addressing SHIC’s priorities surrounding information sharing, risk mitigation, response, and surveillance with significant activities planned in each category. Find the entire POW here.

The Swine Disease Reporting System (SDRS) takes advantage of major veterinary diagnostic laboratories’ willingness to share information and the SHIC-supported infrastructure to enable it. The 2013 PED outbreak experience showed that negative diagnostic tests associated with syndromic information could be an early indication of an emerging disease.  During 2021, further compilation and analysis of negative diagnostic tests results and associated syndromic information will be explored.  Also, the SDRS will investigate if connecting grow-finish diagnostics with sow farm disease could be a predictor of sow farm disease outbreaks.

During 2020, SHIC partnered with other industry organizations for a comprehensive review of the diverse but interdependent components of national biosecurity. Border protection, pig and sow movements, first points of concentration for pigs and sows, feed safety, vaccines and other common inputs, state and federal movement and health regulations, and others, are all pieces of US national pork industry biosecurity. Results realized in 2021 will focus on ensuring effectiveness of the highest priorities first and funds may be needed to support addressing identified vulnerabilities. 

SHIC, with co-sponsor American Association of Swine Veterinarians, plans to offer four to six current topic webinars. The objective of these webinars, continuation of a 2020 program, is to “keep pace with industry chatter” about health challenges. Veterinarians may be challenged with diseases or clinical conditions for which information about management or control might be limited. Sharing experiences and response options will foster communication and inform discussion about best management practices.

The Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project (MSHMP) will continue to help to identify industry needs through the input from the project’s participants and other sources in 2021. New efforts will be made to make the shared information more actionable and specific analysis projects mining the data will be supported to return value to the pork industry.

Enhancing the Global Swine Disease Monitoring Report to enhance understanding of disease status in countries around the world is a 2021 priority for SHIC.

Because USDA and FDA consider pathogen transport via imported feed products to be an unlikely risk because of limited objective information, data will be gathered to support an objective risk assessment. The projects will also evaluate cost-effective mitigation techniques and strategies. 

Pathogen transfer back to the farm from first points of concentration continues to challenge producer opportunity for profit and will risk emerging or foreign animal disease control. Innovative, cost-effective solutions to minimize this transfer will be studied thanks to SHIC funding and direction.

In 2021, SHIC work will focus on grow-finishing sites’ bioexclusion practices to validate and rank options which will help protect the site’s swine health as well as neighboring farms and regions from emerging disease outbreaks. Also, biocontainment or decreasing the amount of pathogens leaving an outbreak site will help to protect neighboring farms and regions from emerging disease outbreaks. So SHIC’s work during 2021 will include assessing existing technologies or new ideas for cost-effective ways to help inform producers about biocontainment decisions.

Effort to refine and enhance the Rapid Response Corps program will continue in 2021. An industry standard for an outbreak investigation instrument will give the industry an opportunity to analyze data for proactive risk identification instead of having wide disparity in individual retrospective responses to disease introduction. An advisory group will be formed to define the need and content of a standardized outbreak investigation instrument. 

There is no predicting when or where the next emerging disease will appear. SHIC needs to be prepared with funds in place that can be quickly mobilized to support filling the immediate research gaps following an introduction. This research will provide producers and their veterinarians with critical information that they will need to effectively respond to the disease outbreak.

Another 2021 SHIC project will assess the effectiveness of sanitation and decontamination protocols. It will be an important question to answer in preparation for effective response to a foreign animal disease. For example, cost-effective, validated plans for disinfection of sites after an African swine fever (ASF) depopulation will be needed to repopulate the site with confidence. 

SHIC will continue to offer diagnostic fee support to help detect emerging diseases in 2021. There continues to be incidents of high morbidity/high mortality where an etiology is either not identified or there is a strong supposition that the identified pathogen is not the likely cause of the outbreak. Support for these follow up diagnostic workups – to ensure that a new or emerging disease won’t be missed – will be available after producers have funded the initial diagnostics. 

Building on previous SHIC support for investigating spatially balanced surveillance models, the next step is to evaluate the application of spatially balanced surveillance using contemporary – or next generation – surveillance sampling. This work will fill the gap of looking at a novel surveillance scheme for “non-positive” areas after an ASF or other transboundary or foreign animal disease outbreak.

Veterinary diagnostic labs find novel viruses in the Swine Viral Disease Matrix being associated with clinical disease syndromes. Better understanding these agents’ epidemiology and pathogenicity are important to identifying if they have a role in clinical disease and will be sought in 2021.

Each priority serves the goals expressed in the SHIC mission statement: The mission of the Swine Health Information Center is to protect and enhance the health of the United States swine herd through coordinated global disease monitoring, targeted research investments that minimize the impact of future disease threats, and analysis of swine health data. Input for the Plan of Work is always welcome as SHIC seeks to be quickly responsive to industry needs and issues. Reach out to SHIC Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg at [email protected].

SHIC 2020 Progress Report Details Efforts to Protect US Swine Herd Health

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) shared its 2020 Progress Report with the National Pork Board (NPB), providing details on results from activities to fulfill its mission. Among those are collaboration on domestic and international pork industry goals, supporting targeted research projects, along with monitoring swine diseases and issues around the world. “In the very short time we’ve been in existence, we have come to play such a vital role in helping defend the health of our industry,” remarked SHIC Board of Directors Chair Daryl Olsen, DVM, AMVC. “I recommend people read the progress report and evaluate our performance. After you’ve read it, you’re going to understand that we have filled a void and been very successful. We’re committed to protecting the US pig population.”

SHIC Plan of Work projects in 2020 included efforts on the swine viral disease matrix, monitoring and mitigating risks to US swine herd health, improving on-farm biosecurity, African swine fever (ASF) prevention and preparedness, and continual disease analysis sharing with pork producers and stakeholders. SHIC also facilitated investigation of newly identified agents associated with disease, such as porcine sapovirus and others, while supporting a rapid industry response to emerging disease outbreaks.

“PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus) was the stimulus for SHIC’s development and we’ve done a lot to look at all diseases – foreign animal disease or anything else,” Dr. Olsen explained. “We’re trying to protect and be prepared whatever the introduction is. So many of the things we have done are not disease specific but are looking at creating more protection, more safeguards, and better understanding for all disease introductions.” 

SHIC’s 2020 progress includes processes to strengthen national biosecurity and protect the US from foreign transboundary diseases like ASF. For example, NPB and SHIC, with the collaboration of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), have funded a project to identify gaps in US pork industry national biosecurity. The goal is to prevent entry of foreign animal disease into the country by addressing those gaps. Among the many areas being considered for study are foreign imports, entry of foreign travelers, domestic transportation of animals, common inputs to US production, domestic market channels, and others.

The threat of ASF drives several projects for SHIC including coordination of international ASF research, collecting data on the use of oral fluids for ASF surveillance and monitoring, and oral fluids PCR sensitivity when testing for ASF. On-going ASF research projects in Vietnam, enabled by a SHIC administered USDA Foreign Agricultural Service grant (received with the assistance of NPPC in the application phase), include strengthening veterinary services capacity for mitigating ASF impact in Vietnam, as well as implementation of field projects to learn preparedness lessons in a country experiencing an ASF outbreak.

“We are so laser focused on swine disease introductions and re-introductions into the country,” Dr. Olsen observed. “When you’re laser-focused on one thing, it gives you so much more ability to make decisions. That’s been beneficial. No other organization I know of can be this focused on one task. That’s exciting.” As SHIC has focused on disease introductions, it has resulted in benefits beyond excluding foreign animal disease (FAD), a positive development in his opinion.

Enhancing industry and farm biosecurity is essential to limiting and managing emerging diseases. SHIC improved information about feed holding time and temperature as an ASF mitigation strategy, convened an expert panel to author guidelines on the use of ultraviolet light as a disinfection technique, and studied the effectiveness of a different pig movement and unloading method to prevent pathogens coming on to a farm during marketing in 2020. Analysis of swine health data has resulted in a model to predict PED outbreaks onto farms, prioritizing biosecurity procedures to prevent porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), and informing producers about PRRS strains causing disease

Both a webinar series focusing on “industry chatter” related to swine disease issues, co-sponsored by AASV and conducted by Iowa State University Swine Medicine Education Center, and a podcast, SHIC Talk, were introduced in 2020. These new communications tools complement SHIC’s website, monthly enewsletter, participation in events – done virtually in 2020 and 2021 so far, and personal outreach. These avenues for information sharing provide wide access to ever-growing information designed with the goal of enhancing US swine herd health.

“From my unique perspective as both a veterinarian and producer, I’ve looked at roles I could play within the industry. My involvement with SHIC has just been a perfect alignment. It fits my interests and really my whole depiction of what perfect role would be with my experience and involvement,” stated Dr. Olsen. “Most of the people on the board are the same way. This is one group I’m always looking forward to with the next challenges as well as successes. We keep whacking off successes! This group doesn’t tread water, it’s on a sprint!” Dr. Olsen given credit to SHIC Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg for much of the success. “Give a lot of credit back to Paul with his abilities, knowledge, and experience. He’s been integral to being able to pull this all together and pull it off. When we selected him for our executive director, we made a very wise choice,” Dr. Olsen concluded.

Nugent Joins SHIC Board of Directors

Russ Nugent, PhD, from northwest Arkansas has joined the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) board of directors, representing the National Pork Board (NPB). Nugent, a member of the NPB board of directors, was appointed to fill the SHIC board seat previously held by NPB board member Bill Luckey of Nebraska.

“With my background, I really love interacting with the smart, technical folks we have in swine health, biosecurity, and disease prevention. Then I can turn it into information producers can use to improve their individual livelihoods and to help the US overall stay very competitive in the international pork market,” Nugent observed. “We have the best systems here in this country and are the envy of rest of the world. You can’t do that without a lot of great scientific minds. To translate this expertise into activities and processes busy farmers can execute successfully is my passion.”

Nugent’s training and life experience have led to his interest in disease prevention, biosecurity, and production issues. He also views sustainability as a related issue. “Sustainability is such a huge part of the health of mother earth. All large-scale ag commodities have the responsibility to be conscious and proactive in that regard. A healthy pig herd creates a healthy planet when it comes to antibiotic use and all other related components,” he remarked. “People want healthy, nutritious, safe food and want to leave the planet healthy and safe. On the front end of production, topics like biosecurity, disease control, and health of pigs that need to be taken very seriously. It trickles down from there to take care of the earth sustainably and successfully.”

Nugent’s passion for production agriculture began on the small farm in rural Connecticut where he was raised and led to his choice of Penn State for his undergrad degree in animal bioscience. From there, he went to Virginia Tech, where he earned a master’s and PhD in animal breeding and genetics, working primarily with beef cattle and sheep. A postdoctoral appointment with USDA at its US Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska followed. There, the team of 80 PhDs and DVMs function together, uniting all disciplines, seeking better, more efficient livestock production systems from birth to harvest.

Tyson’s live swine division was Nugent’s next career stop, a place where he spent nearly three decades and cultivated his core pork production experiences, knowledge, and contacts. He began as a geneticist with Tyson and quickly moved to a role overseeing the technical service aspects of Tyson production systems. His responsibilities included hundreds of thousands of pigs, herd health, risk management around disease issues, biosecurity, and becoming active in the veterinary industry as a non-veterinarian. For the last 20 years, Nugent has been involved with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, NPB, where he was chair of the swine health committee for six years and is presently a board member, the American Society of Animal Science, and more. “I tried to make sure I had good relationships with the brilliant veterinarians involved in swine health and connect my expertise in technical solutions for the producer, who has decisions to make,” he recalled.

Nugent was involved in industry efforts to respond to porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and was serving on the NPB swine health committee during the height of the outbreak. Presently, he is engaged in African swine fever (ASF) prevention efforts through service on task forces and other groups. He looks forward to serving on the SHIC board and extending his involvement in the pork industry, noting he was a proponent of the Center as chair of the NPB swine health committee, even before it launched. “SHIC is a wonderful invention,” Nugent stated. “They take an animal health threat, and educate us on it, so it becomes a non-threat. SHIC has been on the cutting edge of several situations I would consider a homerun. And it’s a great value. They make progress on so many fronts, significantly contributing to the health of our swine industry, without a lot of overhead or unnecessary expenses.”

After retiring from Tyson in 2020, Nugent formed Dogwood Ag Services, LLC focusing on swine industry consulting, Bermuda hay, and hog sales. Nugent and his wife live on a small farm in northwest Arkansas where they enjoy outdoor activities.

CBP Canine Kody with prohibited homemade sausage.

Photo credit: US Customs and Border Protection.

CBP Canine Alerts to Prohibited Pork Sausage Arriving at Newark Airport

In early January 2021, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists found 88 pounds of prohibited homemade pork sausage in luggage originating in Kosovo at the Newark Liberty International Airport. A CBP canine, Kody, examined the luggage, alerting his handler to its contents. Swine meat is prohibited from Kosovo as per 9CFR94 of USDA regulations. The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) applauds this successful event, along with hundreds of similar confiscations annually, as pork products are an identified vector for transmission of foreign animal disease, including African swine fever.

“The importation of swine meat, though seemingly harmless to the general public, could cause grave damage to our economy and agricultural industry, and CBP does its part in keeping these prohibited items from entering the United States.” said Troy Miller, Director of CBP’s New York Field Operations.

“To protect the health of the US swine herd and prevent introduction of foreign animal disease, SHIC has been working closely with other pork industry organizations as well as Customs and Border Protection Staff,” remarked SHIC Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg. SHIC has encouraged diligence in secondary screenings by CBP for persons visiting the US, or upon returning following international travel, after farm visits abroad.

CBP’s agriculture specialists are on the front line in safeguarding America’s agricultural resources. On a typical day in fiscal year 2019, CBP agriculture specialists throughout the nation seized 4,695 prohibited plants, meats, animal byproducts, and soils and intercepted 314 insect pests. Learn more about how CBP Agriculture Specialists protect the United States from dangerous pests and disease that could affect the country’s economic vitality.

In addition to CBP efforts to exclude foreign animal disease vectors, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently posted its fiscal year 2020 enforcement activity summary data. The report provides information on enforcement efforts in the areas of biotechnology, agricultural quarantine inspection, animal and plant health, and animal welfare and horse protection. The Agency says the data illustrates their efforts to promote compliance with regulations to protect American agriculture.

In the report, APHIS wrote, “To support agricultural quarantine inspection activities in fiscal year 2020, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services opened 907 cases; sent 316 warning letters; and issued 488 pre-litigation settlement agreements, resulting in the collection of $1,393,424 in stipulated penalties. In one case, APHIS Investigative and Enforcement Services negotiated a pre-litigation settlement agreement for $364,000 to resolve more than 100 alleged violations of the Plant Protection Act and the Animal Health Protection Act relating to the handling of regulated garbage. In another case, APHIS entered into a Consent Decision and Order relating to multiple violations of shipment holds placed by Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, resulting in an $18,750 civil penalty.”

Activities of these two government agencies illustrate the significant threat of foreign animal disease introduction into the US via regulated and prohibited items, including swine meat. Staff of these agencies along with the CBP Beagle Brigade perform essential tasks related to safeguarding the health of the US swine herd.

Note for International Travelers

International travelers returning to the US, or those arriving from other countries, after visiting a farm or being in contact with animals in a country (or countries) with ASF, or any other foreign animal disease, should declare this information to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) via written form, airport kiosk, or verbally. SHIC, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), National Pork Board (NPB), and National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) continue to ask international travelers to report if they were not diverted for secondary screening upon arrival in the United States.

If you are NOT diverted for secondary screening after declaring you have been on a farm or in contact with animals in an ASF or other foreign animal disease positive nation, please email the following to [email protected]:

Dr. Sundberg aggregates this information so SHIC, AASV, NPB, and NPPC can share it with CBP to help identify areas for continued focus.

SHIC Provides Context on Chinese ASF Outbreaks and Vaccines

Illegal African swine fever (ASF) vaccine use in China continues, creating concern in the US swine industry. Per a January 21, 2021, report by Reuters, “A new form of African swine fever identified in Chinese pig farms is most likely caused by illicit vaccines, industry insiders say… Two new strains of African swine fever have infected more than 1,000 sows on several farms owned by New Hope Liuhe, China’s fourth-largest producer, as well as pigs being fattened for the firm by contract farmers, said Yan Zhichun, the company’s chief science officer.” USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) says there is information about at least two ASF vaccines being used in China, a situation they continue to monitor and acknowledge may change. One of these vaccines circulating in China at this stage has a deletion of only the CD2 gene and the other with deletions of the CD2 and the MGF genes. Based on this information, APHIS fully expects available ASF PCR tests deployed in the US to be able to detect both vaccine strains.

The Swine Health Information Center remains vigilant in its monitoring of the situation. While a proven reliable, tested, and approved vaccine for ASF would be welcome, risks associated with any vaccine versions not shown to be safe and effective are great. Anecdotal information from China, prior to the Reuters report, indicated an unapproved two-gene deleted ASF vaccine version in the Asian nation reportedly causes infection and pathology as well as some death, but the majority of pigs live following vaccination, even though there might be chronic lesions and shedding. Consequently, the ability to detect even these types of vaccine strains via PCR is crucial for safeguarding the US swine herd from risk of exposure due to feed, fomites, products, or by purposeful or accidental introductions.

February Swine Disease Monitoring Reports

As the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, SHIC continues to focus efforts on prevention, preparedness, and response to novel
and emerging swine disease for the benefit of US swine health.

Domestic Disease Monitoring Report

This month’s Domestic Swine Disease Monitoring Report shows that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV) detection had a moderate decrease from December 2020 to January 2021, mostly contributed by a substantial decrease in detection in wean-to-market animals. There was a moderate increase in detection for porcine deltacoronavirus (PDCoV) in adult/sow farm animals. There was a moderate decrease in Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. At a state level, PDCoV detection was three standard deviations above expected in Kansas and Oklahoma. Drs. Trevisan, Magalhaes, and Linhares reflect on the main findings and contributions of the SDRS to the swine industry in 2020, and leak some of what is cooking for 2021 in the related podcast.

Global Swine Disease Monitoring Report

In the February Global Swine Disease Monitoring Report, authors report the situation in Germany keeps evolving wiht new cases of African swine fever (ASF) detected outside the core zones in Brandenburg as well as seizure of pork products infected with the ASF. In China, a new ASF strain most likely caused by illicit vaccines has been identified. And this month’s “Focus on…” section continues a review of Asia.