APHIS may change swine disease programs

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A proposal from federal animal health officials would have states develop swine health plans as part of a national program to combat brucellosis and pseudorabies.

Officials with the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are seeking comments on the document, which proposes combining the federal swine pseudorabies and brucellosis programs. Information provided by APHIS spokeswoman Workabeba Yigzaw describes the document as a regulatory concept paper.

APHIS is accepting comments through April 8 at www.regulations.gov under docket number APHIS–2010–0086, and the 16-page concept paper is available at www.aphis.usda.gov. At press time, the AVMA planned to develop and submit comments on the APHIS document.

If a future disease program functions as described in the concept paper, state governments would—and tribal governments could—develop documents detailing their swine disease risk assessments and their efforts to reduce the risk that swine would become infected and leave the state.  Those risks largely depend on feral swine populations, which harbor both diseases.

“At least 38 states have feral swine populations, and the overall feral swine population keeps expanding,” the document states.

Feral swine have infected domestic animals with the diseases, and transmission is most likely to occur through contact with the minority of domestic swine herds that are not kept in biosecure facilities, the concept paper states. Exposed domestic swine are sometimes mixed with swine from other herds at fairs, exhibitions, and markets.

The current swine brucellosis and pseudorabies programs were not designed to deal with the disease risks connected with feral swine or swine exposed to feral swine, the concept paper states. The change would involve state governments implementing APHIS Veterinary Services–approved swine health plans involving swine population assessments and surveillance, record keeping, actions to control or manage outbreaks, and agreements to make the plans publicly available.

If a state or tribe had no such health plan, the owners of swine within the state would need negative tests for both diseases prior to moving the swine interstate. The tests could be conducted prior to movement, or owners could receive APHIS certification that their animals were “movement-eligible” on the basis of prior tests.

Under the proposal, exposed swine also could be quarantined on feedlots and tested prior to movement, although the agency still would let animals with appropriate permits move directly to slaughter in sealed vehicles. State and tribal governments could decide whether to allow quarantine feedlots within their borders but not prevent people from shipping exposed swine through their lands.

APHIS also proposes combining indemnity programs for brucellosis, pseudorabies, and other swine diseases. The program would allow payment of up to fair market value for animals and full payment of costs to destroy and discard infected swine.