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SHIC Makes Progress on Rapid Response Corps Project

The Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) continues to make strides toward making nationwide operational disease preparedness a reality with its Rapid Response Corps (RRC) project. Specifically, SHIC’s goal with this project is to develop a rapid response program for epidemiological investigations of emerging, transboundary and endemic swine diseases.

“We’re building something unique with this program,” said Derald Holtkamp, Associate Professor of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University, who is spearheading the research efforts behind the RRC project. “Our goal is to create a nationwide network of veterinarians, animal health officials, epidemiologists and others who share our desire to move quickly when a new or emerging disease threat occurs.”

Regional Approach
According to the draft plan, the RRC will start with six established regions across the country. Holtkamp said, “These will follow state lines, but can be flexible as to the size of each region if changes are warranted.”

A balance to each region’s size will be made based on being able to recruit enough individuals in each region, yet small enough for RRC members to be able to drive to sites in their region to get to a farm within 72 hours after activation.

Member Specifics
Per Holtkamp’s draft plan for the RRC, members will consist of veterinary consultants, state animal health officials or representatives, epidemiologists and federal animal health officials, if warranted. Members in states or regions of the country with the needed expertise and willingness to be trained and participate will be identified and recruited for the teams.

Members of the RRC will be compensated for time spent completing necessary training. Whether training will count as continuing education credits is still undetermined. However, members will be compensated for time spent completing investigations in the event of an emerging or transboundary disease in the country.

If and when a disease emergency is called, RRC members will be expected to heed the call. “While it is entirely voluntary,” Holtkamp said. “The expectation is that members will be available to respond within a certain period of time, which will be clearly explained in the initial agreement they will need to sign before being trained.”

Eventually, RRC members would have a level of certification to be able to demonstrate their expertise and competency. This would create the opportunity and responsibility for “peace-time” practice. According to Holtkamp, the most important part of the plan is to assure that RRC members are adequately prepared to respond in a timely and effective manner.

Advisory Group
The draft plan includes an advisory group of five members that will offer input to the RRC development. The members, to be recruited by the project investigators, will include two swine veterinary consultants, one swine veterinarian employed by a production system or allied industry, one state animal health official and one swine epidemiologist from a veterinary college other than Iowa State University.

Holtkamp envisions the advisory group providing input on issues such as: RRC membership; RRC requirements, responsibilities and certification; corps leadership; standardization of investigation forms; summary reports and databases; issues related to confidentiality of information and data from the investigations; and content and delivery of the required training.

“The advisory group will participate in two conference calls in the first year and have a face-to-face meeting this December in conjunction with the North American PRRS Symposium in Chicago,” Holtkamp said.

To learn more about where the draft Rapid Response Corps project stands today in its current draft form, visit the SHIC website. To make the project stronger, anyone is welcome to offer comments, support and/or input at any time. To do so, please contact either the project leader Dr. Derald Holtkamp, holtkamp@iastate.edu, or the SHIC Executive Director, Dr. Paul Sundberg, psundberg@swinehealth.org.

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. For more information, visit https://www.swinehealth.org or contact Dr. Sundberg at psundberg@swinehealth.org.