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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Biosecurity gaps can increase risk for PEDV

Veterinarians encourage pork producers to take action before winter.

An outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) generally indicates a breakdown in a farm's biosecurity program. Biosecurity is complex, and every plan is different.

To protect the health of a farm, be sure to update and review biosecurity programs on a regular basis. It's also critical for producers to take the time to provide a comprehensive overview to all those involved with the execution of a farm's biosecurity plan to help eliminate any chance for error.

"You may have the greatest employees with the best intentions on your farm, but if they aren't educated on the biosecurity program, that's when you'll run into problems," Dr. Rick Swalla, senior veterinarian with Zoetis Pork Technical Services, said. "Help everyone understand the biosecurity program and the ramifications of not following through with the program you have in place, especially new employees who may have never experienced an outbreak situation."

Assessing biosecurity programs can be an overwhelming task for producers. While each farm presents its own unique set of challenges, it's important to follow some basic guidelines.

"I encourage producers to work with their veterinarian in not only designing biosecurity programs to minimize their risk of PEDV but also auditing the program," added Dr. Matt Ackerman with Swine Veterinary Services.

To help evaluate a biosecurity plan, also consider downloading a copy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture biosecurity herd/premises management plan. This document was developed by USDA in collaboration with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and other federal government agencies to help assess biosecurity protocols, including livestock transportation and visitors entering or exiting the farm.

"People shouldn't be thinking they have immunity if they've already had a PEDV outbreak," Ackerman said. "From experience, we know that the disease can return and can even hit harder the second time. We all need to spend time and money on biosecurity to continue to help keep the virus out or get it contained quickly."

Going through an assessment program also helps producers identify all potential causes of PEDV.

The AASV Production Animal Disease Risk Assessment Program, which is owned by AASV and managed by Iowa State University, has been used to help identify vulnerabilities ahead of fall and winter when PEDV outbreaks are more frequent. The value of the assessment is helping producers and veterinarians think about where gaps in biosecurity are and understand how often risky events are happening. For instance, a farm and employees may have been doing something the same way for 20 years and never thought about it as a potential risk.

Producers who already have experienced a PEDV outbreak should not let their guards down. PEDV has been much quieter this year, so it's easy to get complacent and overlook disease risks. However, producers only need to look at the losses in 2013 and 2014 as a reminder of how lethal the disease can be.

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