The prevalence of swine influenza in England is much higher than previously thought, according to newly published research carried out by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the COSI Consortium.

The prevalence of swine influenza in England is much higher than previously thought, according to newly published research carried out by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and the COSI Consortium.
 
Farms that test positive for swine influenza virus are also more likely to be infected with other pig pathogensThe findings of the study, which took place during 2008/9, were presented at the International Pig Veterinary Society (IPVS) Congress in Vancouver, which took place in July.
 
Barbara Weiland from the RVC said: “The prevalence is much higher than expected, and this highlights the importance of subclinical infection, and the fact that swine influenza virus is a significant production disease that has been underestimated in the past.”

The study involved 146 farrow-to-finish farms representing around 17% of the English herd. On each farm 20 animals of different age groups were tested for the H1N1, H1N2 and H3N2 influenza viruses. At least one pig tested positive on 59% of the farms, with avian-like H1N1 being the most common strain found in England, followed by H1N2. 18% of the farms tested had both H1N1 and H1N2.

Swine influenza symptomsThose farms that tested positive for swine influenza virus were also more likely to be infected with other pig pathogens, and had poor respiratory scores in slaughterhouse monitoring programmes.

Ricardo Neto, Merial’s veterinary advisor said: “The presentation of this research gives us the first real indication of the level of prevalence of swine influenza in England. Not only are the findings important from the point of view of improving our knowledge of the disease, but also for individual vets and producers in managing herd health.

“Although the disease may not appear to have much effect on the herd, it does have a significant economic effect and in some cases can be quite disastrous […] Therefore, there is a strong economic case for considering preventative treatment.”
 
Research presented at the same congress revealed that farms in France may be suffering from an even higher level of prevalence. The study carried out on 29 French farms in 2009 showed that nearly 97% of the farms tested were positive for at least one swine influenza virus subtype.

Photo ©istockphoto.com/meltonmedia
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