Experts predict swine virus outbreaks

Experts predict swine virus outbreaks
Dec 22, 2020

Voluntary reporting has allowed researchers to develop algorithms to forecast PED outbreaks

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

The Swine Health Information Centre (SHIC) is contributing to expanding programs helping pig farmers take a proactive approach to herd health.

Researchers at North Carolina State University are “using a mapping system (to) outline and identify premises along with pig movement and other characteristics and then predict porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED)_ outbreaks in those premises. Along with that it (the program) does an analysis of potential interventions,” Dr. Paul Sundberg, DVM and executive director of SHIC, told

This program can help producers decide which intervention is most likely to be successful in preventing PED on their farm, he added.

Meanwhile, at the University of Minnesota experts have developed and are expanding and refining a machine-learning predictive tool.

This effort involves “a computer learning project that takes into account multiple characteristics of a site, including the topography, hills, trees, the weather, pig movement, the status of farms around the area, and then is able to predict an outbreak,” Sundberg explained. “Again, we’re starting with PED.”

Researchers are working on mapping and predicting porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome as well.

This project started in southeast U.S. and has expanded into the Midwest, high plains region, forcing predictive algorithms to adjust to different topographical and climatic conditions, he added.

Data for each monitoring program comes from the Morrison Swine Health Monitoring Project, which started in 2011 to gather and aggregate swine health data from producers and veterinarians across the country.

“These folks are willing to share their information, they’re willing to be part of the development of these programs and to help them refine and be more accurate and work better,” Sundberg explained. “The producers have realized that they’re stronger together than they are individually, and so they’re willing to share information … in order to be able to help.”

Experts “are able to predict, with some accuracy, a PED outbreak two weeks before it happens,” he added. And researchers are continuing to refine algorithms.

Sundberg has been a vet for 37 years and has practiced in Nebraska for 10 years.

“During that time, we spent a lot of energy and a lot of effort on helping farmers respond to disease. We certainly did prevention programs and biosecurity, but you could only do so much of that,” he explained. “This gives us the opportunity to get ahead of disease instead of chasing.”

When the system predicts an outbreak, producers have the option to move vulnerable pigs,  increase biosecurity, or take other enhanced preventative measures.

“They’re going to try to stop it or they’re going to try to manage it, and that is a huge value to animal health,” Sundberg said.

Odairson Antonello\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo

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