Indiana reviving old committee for ongoing PRRS problem

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Indiana animal health officials are reconvening a committee used to coordinate pseudorabies eradication programs during previous decades as the state updates efforts to combat infection with the porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus in swine.

The Indiana State Board of Animal Health plans to convene a Swine Health Advisory Committee to consider how the state can help the swine industry combat porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, or PRRS, said Dr. Bret D. Marsh, Indiana state veterinarian and AVMA treasurer. The board announced in February that it was reviving the committee, which regularly met in the 1980s and 1990s but has been inactive about 10 years.

The Swine Health Advisory Committee's PRRS scientific subcommittee will consist mostly of veterinarians from private practice, diagnostic laboratories, and universities, and the full committee will include pork industry members such as swine producers and market operators.

PRRS is associated with reproductive failure and postweaning respiratory disease in swine. It was first reported in the U.S. during the late 1980s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We are reactivating the committee because the swine industry wants to take a new look at an old problem, and it is the first time the industry has reached out to our regulatory agency in the hope of finding some solutions," Dr. Marsh said. He cited as evidence of the disease's harm a report in the Aug. 1, 2005, issue of JAVMA that indicates PRRS costs U.S. swine producers about $560 million annually, and he said that Indiana producers continue enduring substantial losses from the disease.

Dr. John E. Baker, chair of the Board of Animal Health, said PRRS eradication efforts have been increasing nationwide in the past two years, and northern Indiana has experienced an increased incidence of the disease as the industry has added finishing barns for hogs from the Midwest, North Carolina, and Canada.

The board plans for the committee to determine what companies in the swine industry expect of the board, what information the industry could use toward combating the PRRS virus, and how such information would be used. For example, Dr. Marsh said that Indiana could use its database of livestock premises to gather PRRS diagnostic data for farms and map areas with the disease.

He said the state has the authority to impose quarantines, restrict movement, and require livestock testing, but such measures could wreak havoc on the state's swine industry.

"It's important as a regulatory agency that we keep in mind our customers, and in this case the swine industry, and make sure we understand their goals and objectives as we look at some long-term solutions for this disease," Dr. Marsh said.

An announcement from the board states that the swine industry, research, and regulations changed in the years between state meetings on PRRS, and Indiana could provide leadership by re-evaluating efforts to combat the disease. Indiana producers had about 3.65 million hogs and pigs as of December 2010, and the state had the fifth-largest swine inventory in the U.S., according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.