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Rapid response project aims to limit disease risk to US swine herds

A nationwide project to speed up the response to emerging disease outbreaks hopes to better protect the US swine herd against health threats.

The Rapid Response Program aims to quickly mobilize experts to investigate signs of emerging, transboundary and endemic swine diseases so that the industry can react promptly to outbreaks.

Created by the Swine Health Information Center and the University of Iowa, it aims to offer support to producers by identifying how diseases move, as well as they ways they could spread.

It also plans to work with individual producers to identify how disease may have entered farms, and work on any gaps in a farm’s biosecurity measures.

As part of the project, the program is working to recruit a network of veterinarians, animal health officials and epidemiologists into its Rapid Response Corps (RRC).

Following any signs of outbreaks, members of the corps will be dispatched to farms to quickly investigate and diagnose disease, before providing advice to producers and the wider industry.

Derald Holtkamp, associate professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine at Iowa State University, said RRC will be split across six regions nationally.

An advisory panel of five animal health experts will also be established to help ensure RRC members have the necessary skills and training to investigate and report on outbreaks.

“Our goal is to create a nationwide network of veterinarians, animal health officials, epidemiologists and others who share our desire to move quickly when a new or emerging disease threat occurs,” he said. “We’re building something unique with this program.”

Dr. Paul Sundberg, executive director of the Swine Health Center, said the outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) in the US in 2003 demonstrated the need for the industry to respond to emerging diseases in a more effective way.

“One of the lessons learned from the PED outbreak was when we tried to do rapid response investigations from PED, it was good investigation but it wasn’t very rapid,” he said.

“We had to fly people from one part of the country to the other so it was delayed. What we’re trying to do here is ensure that we can get experts onto the farm right away.”

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