The human cost of PEDv

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Erin Brenneman sent me a note last night. She had written an article about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv) breaking on two of their sow farms, and what it was like to go through that experience. Her article is honest, forthright and heartfelt, and I encourage you to read it here.

Without being maudlin, Erin shares the day-by-day progression as the disease worked its way through the barn – from the very first sick pigs, to the loss of nearly all the baby pigs for a period of time, to the hopeful light at the end of the tunnel when pigs no longer show signs of disease.

It’s a succession that most producers have experienced at one time or another. Animal disease is inevitable, even under the best management and biosecurity protocols.

I’ve heard producers talk about what it was like when they discovered porcine respiratory and reproductive syndrome, or transmissible gastroenteritis, or influenza, or any number of other health occurrences.

I have personal experience with pseudorabies: While we didn’t have clinical signs of the disease in our herd, the effect was just as damaging. Because of a positive test, it meant we wouldn’t be able to sell breeding stock and as seedstock producers, that was our lifeblood. I can still remember my husband telling me we’d tested positive and feeling the pit in the bottom of my stomach for what that announcement meant.

While the impact on owners is overwhelming, the effect on employees and family members is just as profound. Some of these people, like Erin, are in the barn every day. They take pride in their work and feel a personal satisfaction when everything goes well. Even when they know a disease issue isn’t their fault, it’s hard not to feel demoralized.

The fact that the Brennemans have decided to let people know what happened is, in my mind, brave and encouraging. Their openness may help others overcome the impact of PEDv, and by sharing the disease’s progression, we may learn new ways to protect against it. A recent news release from the National Pork Board emphasizes this point:

“While a positive diagnosis can be a touchy message to pass on, it’s the responsible thing to do. Start with a commitment to communicate with farm personnel as well as neighboring producers, service providers and veterinarians.”

Knowledge is power, and the more we know, the better able we are to learn from past experience and develop more effective protocols. My appreciation goes to the Brennemans and others who have made similar declarations, because your courage and candor will help us eventually overcome this disease.

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