SHIC’s Rapid Response Corps Drill Ensures Preparedness

The Swine Health Information Center’s Rapid Response Program (SHIC’s RRP) is an important part of SHIC-supported emerging disease preparedness. It’s designed for epidemiological investigations of transboundary or newly emerging swine diseases and is carried out by the Rapid Response Corps (RRC), a volunteer team of specifically-trained industry experts who analyze the patterns and pathways of entry of disease causing pathogens in affected herds. The first training for Corps members began in August 2017 and SHIC recently conducted refresher activities for all RRC Investigators to assure they maintain an understanding of the Program’s processes, timelines, and methodologies.

During the RRP refresher, 30 participating RRC Investigators (practicing and consulting veterinarians, diagnosticians, and epidemiologists) also had the opportunity to identify areas and issues of weaknesses in the Program’s processes so they can be strengthened. The refresher included a self-administered pretest, a one-on-one session between the Corps member and a trainer to go through Program scenarios, practicing established procedures, including using the standard outbreak survey, and concluded with a self-administered post-test. Average score on the pretest was 81%. After the one-on-one sessions, the average score on the post-test rose to 90%.

Overall, the RRC Investigators were well-versed in asking open-ended questions. Most of the open-ended questions expanded on the questions included on the RRP Investigation Form and Summary Report. All the RRC Investigators provided justification for their risk assessments in the refresher scenarios. In most cases, they did not use the terminology in the RRC Investigator training, using instead language based on their knowledge of the industry, past experiences, and the geographical area where they were located.

All the RRC Investigators provided biosecurity suggestions during the refresher, as expected. Most gave biosecurity recommendations appropriate to the scenarios, but some did go beyond and offer suggestions on general practices as well.

The RRP is designed to cover the US with six defined regions. The six regions are small enough so Corps members from within the region can drive to outbreaks and be on the site within 72 hours of invitation being given by the affected producer. The refresher process identified three original RRC members who said they did not want to continue; they will be replaced by newly recruited and trained participants. The primary reason SHIC trains, maintains and funds the RRC is to quickly determine the pathway(s) by which an emerging disease made entry onto a given farm so that recommendations to prevent infection of other swine units can be rapidly circulated industry-wide.

The resources gathered for the RRC online training are available for all, regardless of interest in becoming a team member. By registering on the SHIC website, you can access the training modules which serve as an excellent aid for developing your own rapid response protocol. To learn more about the SHIC Rapid Response Program or provide input, contact SHIC Executive Director Dr. Paul Sundberg ([email protected]) or the program coordinator, Dr. Derald Holtkamp ([email protected]).

When asked for feedback on the drill, RRC Investigators identified the positive benefits of the SHIC RRC Process Refresher Drill as a review of the training and a refresher of the investigation process. SHIC will be acting on the recommendations of the participants to continually improve the RRP, ensuring readiness in the event of a transboundary or newly emerging swine disease outbreak. Corps members’ time commitment, significant expertise and passion for safeguarding the US swine herd, and effort to participate in the RRP are appreciated by SHIC.

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 or contact Dr. Sundberg at [email protected].