At a press conference July 9, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Pork Producers Association announced Iowa has reached Stage 5 status and has now been declared free of pseudorabies.
That means Iowa has been clear of the dreaded hog disease for a year.
"This day has been a long time in coming, and getting here has been a monumental effort. Over the years, there has been an extensive number of hogs tested and vaccinated," said Patty Judge, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture. "A few years ago, there were over 4,000 infected herds in Iowa, the highest number in the nation. Today Iâ€™m elated to report that Iowa is now pseudorabies free."
Pseudorabies is a disease of swine that is extremely contagious and causes reproductive problems, including spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and occasional death losses in breeding and finishing hogs. The disease is not a threat to humans, and the meat from infected animals is not contaminated.
Effort to get rid of the disease applauded
In a letter from the USDA, Dr. Michael Gilsdorf, director of USDAâ€™s Eradication and Surveillance Team of the National Center for Animal Health Programs, stated: "Iowa is to be congratulated for the successful control and eradication of pseudorabies from its swine population. This is an accomplishment for which Iowa can be justly proud."
Early pseudorabies control efforts began in the 1970s. However, a major eradication effort in Iowa was started in 1989 in the counties that were known to be infected. The eradication program grew into a statewide effort by 1993.
"An ongoing and positive relationship between the Iowa Department of Agriculture, pork producers, veterinariansâ€”as well as strict compliance of the testing and vaccination lawsâ€”were the keys to eliminating this disease," says Judge.
"Iowaâ€™s pork producers had vigilance and cooperation, which played a large part in finally ridding Iowa of this swine disease," says Steve Kerns, a pork producer from Clearfield who is president-elect of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.
Iowa has over 10,205 pork operations and those hog farms generate over $12 billion annually for Iowaâ€™s economy. "Getting rid of this disease is very important for our state," adds Kerns.
What this will mean for Iowa
Iowa is the leading hog producing state in the nation, accounting for about 25% of all U.S. hogs. There were 15.9 million hogs on Iowa farms on June 1.
Judge says it cost the state about $10 million to eradicate pseudorabies.
During the pseudorabies outbreak in the year 2000, it was estimated that the disease cost U.S. hog farmers $40 million. The pseudorabies outbreak in 2000 ruined a national goal to eradicate the disease by Jan. 1, 2001.
In response to the year 2000 outbreak, the Iowa Legislature toughened state laws by restricting movement of infected herds, increasing the amount of testing and requiring vaccinations.
USDA also spent $56 million to pay hog farmers fair market value for their pseudorabies-infected hogs that were sent to slaughter, to vaccinate and test hog herds located near infected animals and to enforce vaccination requirements and swine transportation restrictions.
Hog producers must remain watchful
Some hog producers criticized the tough restrictions on the movement of hogs and the mandatory vaccinations. Producers said the steps were too costly. "But the restrictions helped the state bring the problem under control," notes Judge.
"It looked like an insurmountable problem," she recalls. "But getting pseudorabies under control here in Iowa and eventually wiping it out wouldnâ€™t have been possible without the Legislature paying hard dollars year after year."
Dr. John Schiltz, state veterinarian with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says all Iowa hog producers, veterinarians and others must remain vigilant to keep pseudorabies from making a comeback. "This is a big challenge," he notes. "More than 18 million hogs and pigs were imported into Iowa last year. Many people don't realize it, but in fact a lot of hogs are moved into and out of this state each year."