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Virtual clinic drives better understanding of disease outbreaks

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A virtual veterinary clinic that monitors pig-disease trends and provides an early alert system for diagnostic laboratories and swine practitioners is helping the US pork industry stay head of potentially serious and costly health problems.

Now in its ninth year, the Sentinel Veterinary Clinic brings together swine-health professionals each quarter to share observations, experiences and diagnostic findings, with the aim of identifying disease trends before they compromise herd health, welfare and performance.

By creating a virtual picture of what’s happening on farms, the group can warn other vets across the country about signs of disease and discuss the best ways of diagnosing and treating them.

Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine-health information and research for the National Pork Board, said the Sentinel Veterinary Clinic, which takes place via conference call four times a year, allows pig-health practitioners to discuss the health challenges they are seeing on farms.

“It helps us understand if there’s something out there that we weren’t expecting. It’s essentially an early alert system,” Becton told Pig Health Today.

“There are lots of times when there isn’t an immediate ‘bang’, but [discussing what we’re experiencing] gives us an impression of seasonal trends, or whether something is normal.”

Becton said holding the clinic is also helping the group make improvements to the way diseases are identified.

Following a recent flurry of rotavirus C outbreaks, the group’s diagnosticians decided to pool their knowledge and resources to create an improved diagnostic test.

“Over time, they made a better test that can identify rotavirus C easily and cost-effectively, and that stemmed from those calls,” she said.

The clinic also sends alerts through the American Association of Swine Veterinarians to alert vets nationally to potential disease outbreaks.

“We had a case of ear syphilis pop up and we were starting to see it more commonly, so we sent out an alert,” Becton said. “We didn’t see a spike in outbreaks, but we were able to tell people that something’s coming.

“We’ve found it really useful. There’s nothing like having that interaction, and having these calls helps get people together to talk.”


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