Producers urged to vaccinate against swine influenza

Merial Animal Health is urging pig farmers to consider vaccination against swine influenza following an announcement by the AHVLA at the end of 2013 that there has been an increase in diagnoses in the UK.

Writing in its October pig disease surveillance report, the AHVLA indicated that there had been an increase in incidences of swine influenza. Cases highlighted included one at Bury St Edmunds where an 1,800-head herd was moved indoors after being housed under tents.  

About 30% of the animals showed signs of respiratory disease, malaise and recumbency, and 25 were found dead. Swine Influenza was detected by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) in three portions of the lungs, and was the most likely cause of the upsurge in respiratory problems and mortality. It’s thought that by moving the pigs into finishing sheds, the spread of infection among the herd escalated.

Swine influenza was also detected in a separate case of the sudden death of three preweaned piglets with Glässer’s disease, and was believed to have predisposed them to concurrent disease.

The head of large animal business for Merial Animal Health, Findlay MacBean, said the benefits of taking a preventative approach to swine influenza, rather than simply treating outbreaks of the disease, were becoming more apparent.

“We advise producers to talk to their vets about vaccination to reduce both the economic impact and the associated welfare problems of the disease,” he added. “Not only does it affect the vigour of the current herd, but can significantly increase herd replacement rates. Swine influenza increases the likelihood of both abortion and still births. The disease can also affect conception rates and decrease lactation, both of which add to a decrease in herd output.”

The main subtypes of swine influenza affecting pigs in the UK and Europe are H1N1, H3N2, and H1N2. The disease can be sub-clinical and therefore the productivity of the herd can fall before it is detected. The presence of influenza is often not detected until there is a clinical outbreak, and by this point treatment can be costly and pigs’ health severely compromised.

Many vets are now integrating flu vaccination into herd health plans for UK pig producers. Merial’s Gripovac 3 is the only approved swine influenza vaccine on the UK market and is approved for all three of the main subtypes of the disease.

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