Flu control: it’s all about the piglet

Our latest collaboration with the National Hog Farmer was written by Drs. Montse Torremorell and Marie Culhane from the University of Minnesota.

Flu never seems to go away in some herds and that is because there are groups of pigs, or subpopulations, that are able to maintain and spread the flu virus.

One of the most important subpopulations that have been identified as sources of virus on a farm is the piglets. Piglets may be infected, but may not show any signs of disease, and as a result, are silent spreaders of flu. Then, at weaning, a small, but significant, percentage of the piglets can be subclinically infected with flu, meaning they appear healthy but are shedding flu at the nursery or wean-to-finish site.

This causes a challenge for producers because even though piglets are born free of flu, they tend to be contaminated by the dam during their second week of like. The peak of flu-positive piglets occurs at weaning when piglets are moved to a nursery where they may be put in contact with naive piglets from another source and therefore become a major source of infection.

We need to understand how piglets become infected in the farrowing room in order to prevent it. Sow vaccination is a tool commonly used to protect piglets via the transmission of antibodies through the colostrum or maternal immunity. It has been shown to decrease the prevalence of flu-positive piglets at weaning but is insufficient to constantly wean negative animals.

“At the University of Minnesota, we have been measuring the impact of piglets on the spread of flu for years. We found, in a study by Allerson of 52 swine breeding herds in the United States, 23 herds (44%) tested IAV RT-PCR positive at least once during a six-month study period. Groups of piglets from those herds also tested positive for flu at weaning about 25% (75 of 305) of the time.

Along those same lines, Chamba and partnering sow farms reported that out of the 34 farms studied for more than five years, all sow farms tested positive for flu at one time or another and the level of flu infection in the groups of weaned pigs ranged from 7% to 57%. More importantly, in this study, approximately 28% (427 of 1,523) of groups of pigs tested positive at weaning. […]

Ultimately, the successful control of on-going flu infections in growing pigs will depend on the sow farm’s ability to wean a negative pig […]”

Click to read the entire article on the National Hog Farmer website.

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