Increased focus needed on tackling emerging infectious diseases

Efforts are being made to develop a “predictive framework” to help elucidate the mechanisms of disease emergence, UK pig producers and vets were told during a recent Zoetis study tour in Spain.

Prior to visiting a progressive sow unit, the touring group were given a detailed analysis of the risks of emerging and re-emerging diseases by the director of the Barcelona-based Research Centre for Animal Health (CReSA), Dr Joaquim Segalés.

His key message was that, given the potential for diseases to cause significant economic losses, the pig industry should be fully prepared with proper research into this topic.

“The control of a given disease or infection might be very difficult,” said Dr. Segalés.  “Sometimes to live with an endemic scenario could be worse than to eradicate it and be threatened by the risk of re-infection.”

He also said that the subclinical infectious agents of today might be the cause of severe disease tomorrow, adding that “efforts are underway to find a predictive framework to help elucidate mechanisms of disease emergence”.

In that context, Dr. Segalés spoke about the emergence of PCV2 infection and the close genetic links between emergent American porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDV) and Chinese G2a strains, although he pointed out that the exact source of the origin has not yet been identified. 

The group then moved on to Albesa Ramadera Farm, a progressive unit outside Lleida, and part of the Spanish OPP Group, where an interactive camera tour allowed them to experience the animals and their environment close-up, without any biosecurity risk.

“Welfare is a key differentiator in the UK pig industry and it was interesting to see that the OPP Group takes the issue seriously,” said Zoetis UK’s Ifor Phillips. “For example, the OPP Group introduced changes around sow housing well in advance of European legislation.”

Later in the tour, Zoetis UK business unit director, Ben Lacey, led a symposium focusing on comparisons between the UK and Spanish pig industries, including the much higher PCV vaccination rates used in the UK.  

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