Hog Industry’s Response to Avian Flu Outbreak in Dairy Cows

A multistate outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in dairy cows, first identified on March 25 in Texas, has prompted a coordinated response from the pork industry. Marisa Rotolo, National Pork Board’s director of swine health, emphasized ongoing collaboration among industry stakeholders, including the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), and the USDA. Weekly meetings are held to monitor the outbreak and discuss potential implications for the swine sector.

As of July 7, H5N1 has been confirmed in dairy cattle across 12 states, affecting herds in Idaho, Michigan, Colorado, and others. The virus has not been detected in pigs. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack highlighted the critical role of biosecurity in containing the virus and protecting the health of herds, farmers, and the rural economy.

Collaborative Efforts

The pork industry has ramped up its preparedness and response strategies, leveraging lessons learned from past influenza outbreaks, such as H1N1 in 2009. Patrick Webb, National Pork Board’s assistant chief veterinarian, noted that existing preparedness programs, including enhanced biosecurity protocols and surveillance improvements, are instrumental in addressing H5N1 concerns.

Abbey Canon of AASV emphasized the importance of daily communication within the pork industry and with broader health and regulatory entities. AASV aims to increase swine veterinarians’ knowledge and readiness to handle potential threats.

Information and Response Tools

SHIC, established after the 2013 PEDV outbreak, provides crucial tools and resources for addressing emerging diseases. Megan Niederwerder and Lisa Becton of SHIC stressed the importance of continuous influenza surveillance and management. The Swine Disease Reporting System offers valuable data for rapid detection and informed decision-making.

One Health Approach

The AASV advocates for a One Health approach, recognizing the potential for cross-species transmission of influenza viruses. They recommend participation in influenza A virus (IAV) surveillance programs, vaccination, and stringent biosecurity measures to prevent bidirectional transmission.

Heather Fowler of the National Pork Board underscored the importance of seasonal flu shots for farmworkers to protect both human and swine health. The ongoing H5N1 outbreak serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of human and animal health.

Preparedness and Future Outlook

The pork industry’s existing programs and intentional preparedness efforts position it well to respond effectively if H5N1 is detected in swine herds. Continuous collaboration, informed by past experiences and current strategies, ensures that the industry remains ready to tackle emerging threats and protect the health and well-being of pigs and the people who care for them.

This comprehensive and proactive approach underscores the importance of preparedness and collaboration in safeguarding the pork industry against potential outbreaks.