Is it time for a PRRS eradication effort?

I am at the American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting in Omaha. At the same time, the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council have just wrapped their annual meetings in Kansas City.


A hot topic at both meetings is the idea of a national PRRS eradication effort. At Pork Forum, the Minnesota Pork Producers offered a resolution calling for discussion to begin about what might be involved in such an effort.


As one thinks about a possible PRRS eradication effort, several thoughts come to mind.

 First – there is no question that PRRS is costing the US industry a lot of dollars. These dollars are not only associated with all of the mortality and morbidity issues, but also with prevention efforts such as filtration systems, high temperature drying of transport vehicles, etc.


Second – a national effort will take the involvement of the Federal government. Right now, PRRS is not a disease that must be reported and herds that are PRRS positive are not subject to any type of quarantine. Thus, we cannot even identify all of the locations that are PRRS positive or truly quantify the extent of the virus in the US pig population.


Third – the eradication of PRV (pseudorabies) was done with the assistance of marker vaccines. So far, the ability of the PRRS virus to mutate rapidly has prevented the development of an effective vaccine. The possibility of a gene-deleted vaccine that can be used to identify vaccinated animals from infected animals remains a dream for the industry. If a gene-deleted vaccine isn’t available, it will take innovative methods by producers, veterinarians and scientists to come up with alternative methods to accomplish what the gene-deleted vaccines allowed the PRV effort to do.


Fourth – there are pilot area wide eradication programs going on in Minnesota and Michigan. These programs have documented the fact that with a voluntary eradication effort, there must be 100% involvement of all production facilities in the eradication area. In areas of minimal pork density, this is easier to do than areas such as NW Iowa.


Fifth – a topic that will surely arise in any eradication effort will be reimbursement for forced sales or depopulations. Again, with PRV eradication, there were dollars available to assist producers with forced depopulations to clear up stubborn pockets of the virus. With the current federal government deficient problems, making such a program a priority of our legislatures will be a tough but necessary sell.


Finally – I think it is time to begin discussion of a possible national eradication effort. I think our industry can overcome the challenges of such an effort but it will take many years to do it. Every year that we delay the beginning of discussions is a year that we delay eradication of the disease in the US herd.

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