SHIC Rapid Response Program Stays Current with Upcoming Exercise for Corps Members and Web-based Tools

The need to quickly identify, control, and eliminate a pathogen in an endemic, emerging, or transboundary production disease outbreak in the United States is crucial to protect the swine industry from suffering huge economic losses. In August 2016, the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) funded development of the Rapid Response Program (RRP) to address this need, including recruitment and training of the Rapid Response Corps (RRC) who will respond in the event of an outbreak. This fall, SES, Incorporated will create and implement an exercise to provide refresher training for the RRC on the objectives, procedures, and implementation of the RRP. In addition, an ongoing project keeps the Program and Corps prepared by automating and streamlining the rapid response investigation process via a new web application for the form used by RRC members to conduct outbreak investigations. The web application will be tested in Vietnam, as part of another SHIC funded study to investigate African swine fever (ASF) virus on farms there. The intent is to use the experience in Vietnam to further develop and test the web-based version of the investigation form before it goes live in the United States.

With the development of the online training material and the web-based version of the investigation form, the goal is to offer a standardized approach for outbreak investigations to more veterinarians, epidemiologists, and state and/or federal animal health officials even outside the RRP. This will benefit the swine industry by expanding the pool of individuals with RRP materials available on the SHIC website to conduct their own epidemiological investigations in the face of farm emerging or transboundary disease outbreaks.

And, when needed, the RRC is a team of specifically-trained industry experts to analyze the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in affected herds. RRC members, representing six regions of the US, are trained, prepared and committed to moving within 24 hours of contact to conduct epidemiological investigations when a new transboundary or emerging disease threat occurs.

The fall exercise for members of the RRC will offer valuable continuing education, taking into consideration their geographically disparate locations. A series of virtual drills will focus on the key phases of an RRC investigation: pre-investigation, investigation, and post-investigation (reporting). Due to the differences in production facilities and practices for the various phases of hog production, drills will be developed for the primary production phases: sow farms, nurseries, finishers (including wean-finish and gilt replacement) and boar stud operations.

The experience using the web-based version of the investigation form in Vietnam, part of a project being conducted in conjunction with Kansas State University, will provide input on the content, design, and delivery of the survey. This will help improve the web-based version of the investigation form and provide an opportunity to refine how the data is managed to facilitate analysis of the data and communication of results with all relevant parties. The adaptation of the standardized approach to conducting epidemiological outbreak investigations resulting from this project will allow RRC members to collect a consistent set of information and create a baseline database when using it for endemic diseases, and as a database to be able to efficiently respond in the case of an emerging or transboundary disease outbreak.

The RRC was maintained at 35 members for the duration of this project. To support the continuation of the RRP, and to provide members of the RRC with additional training, a pre-conference seminar was conducted at the American Association of Swine Veterinarian’s Annual Meeting in March 2020. The seminar was titled, “Conducting effective outbreak investigations: Learning from our mistakes, part 2.” The seminar followed the successful pre-conference workshop offered as training for the RRC members at the same meeting in 2019.

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 http://www.swinehealth.org or contact Dr. Sundberg at psundberg@swinehealth.org.