The following article is a special report from the 2014 Allen D. Leman Swine Conference

In 1935, Winston Churchill said, “When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure.”

While Churchill was referring to war, his statement would hold true in terms of the U.S. pork industry’s response to Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv). Dr. Paul Sundberg, vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, displayed this quote at the beginning of his presentation at the 2014 Allen D. Leman Swine Conference in St. Paul, Minn.

By the time we recognized a disease problem may exist, PEDv had already impacted many U.S. swine herds. But Sundberg says the industry has learned some valuable lessons.

“We’ve learned the pathway of introduction is difficult – at best,” says Sundberg. And since we don’t know how to keep new diseases from entering the United States, we need to be prepared for more outbreaks in the future and keep in mind, it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when.”

While it appeared at the 2013 World Pork Expo that there was cohesiveness between industry organizations, the veterinary community and USDA, government wheels move slowly.

That means the industry needs to play a larger role in the future, says Sundberg: “We can’t expect USDA along to respond quickly and efficiently to the ‘next PED’ in time to stop it. That means the industry needs to be responsible for managing production diseases.”

Biosecurity Practices
As the industry has learned, even the best biosecurity practicess might not keep a disease like PEDv out of a herd. Transportation, traffic and input biosecurity made it difficult to stay ahead of PEDv spread. “We know there are multiple methods of PED transmission, including environmental, transportation, feed systems and other vectors,” says Sundberg. “In addition, post-processing contamination can occur in different segments of the feed supply chain.”

“We really didn’t have communication channels that were previously identified and developed,” says Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council. She adds that it took some time to sort out the protocols that would be used for PEDv control and to implement those protocols. Plus, all of these decisions were being made in the midst of an outbreak.


Going Forward
Wagstrom explains that an Emerging Diseases Response Group has been initiated to help the industry prepare for the next disease threat. “Presently, the structure of this group has no government authority, so we know it will need to be coordinated with federal and state authorities,” she says. She plans to take a document on the response group to the U.S. Animal Health Association meeting this fall, and come back with a clean draft that can be presented to producers at the 2015 Pork Forum.

Sundberg agrees that the industry needs to increase its preparedness through diagnostics and through increased management and analysis of industry swine health information.

One of the successful strategies the industry initiated was a PRV control board, notes Wagstrom. She says, “It didn’t have regulatory authority but it included federal, state and industry cooperation. It has two objectives: first, to look at the swine disease matrix and secondly, to look at recommendations on how we can better prepare for diseases in other countries that have not yet reached North America.”

The pathway to learning is never a straight line, and there was no way to anticipate the devastating impact PEDv has had on the U.S. pork industry. But we’ve learned from the missteps. Author Richard Bach writes, “There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go.”

Look for more reports from the 2014 Leman Conference in the PED Center, in this newsletter, and in the PorkNetwork magazine.