Porcine circovirus is 'everywhere,' one expert says, leading three animal health companies to increase production of the treatment.
A hard-to-kill virus sweeping through hog herds worldwide is meeting its match: a vaccine that is very effective, but short in supply.
The virus, known as porcine circovirus, is "everywhere," said Dr. R.B. "Butch" Baker, senior clinician at Iowa State University's food supply veterinary service.
"This thing is not going to go away," Baker said at the World Pork Expo, which was held Thursday through Saturday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. "It is very difficult to kill."
ISU is conducting research on the virus, he said, which started turning up in U.S. and Canadian hog herds in 2004 and 2005.
"We don't understand this virus very well," Baker said. "But we do know that the vaccine is a home run."
Three companies now make the vaccine, but it has only been available in small quantities.
"There has not been enough vaccine available in the past year," said Dr. Joseph Connor, a veterinarian from Carthage, Ill. "What we did with the limited amount we had was to move it around to our most severe cases. We were caught off guard by the ramp-up in the number of cases."
The three animal health companies that make porcine circovirus vaccine said at the World Pork Expo that they intend to increase production.
Craig Wallace, vice president of marketing for Fort Dodge Animal Health, said the company makes its Suvaxyn brand vaccine in Charles City and Fort Dodge. Most of the production is in Charles City, he said.
"We underestimated the market" for the vaccine, Wallace said, "but we are increasing our plants' capacity and production staff."
Fort Dodge Animal Health, a division of Wyeth, was founded in Fort Dodge in 1912. Its animal health headquarters are in Overland Park, Kan.
Fort Dodge Animal Health started selling Suvaxyn a year ago and sold 6 million doses of the vaccine, Wallace said. Sales totaled about $8 million, he said.
"We expect to sell more this year because of the increased production," Wallace said. "Suvaxyn is the No. 1 priority product in the organization."
Dr. Greg Cline, swine services veterinarian for Boehringer Ingelheim, said the company is boosting production of its Ingelvac Circoflex brand vaccine made in St. Joseph, Mo.
"Demand has been nothing short of amazing," Cline said.
Although he declined to say how many doses Boehringer Ingelheim sold last year, Cline said sales "were in the millions."
John Foxx of Intervet said that company also is stepping up production of its vaccine at its Delaware and Kansas plants.
"We're producing significantly more doses than we ever expected," Foxx said. "Nobody anticipated the evolution of this disease."
Baker said the virus attacks a pig's lungs especially hard and is spread through the air or in feces.
"The way it has spread across the U.S. and the globe shows that our biosecurity measures in the U.S. are pretty pathetic," Baker said.
The virus is resistant to heat, he said, but properly disinfecting livestock trailers and premises can make a difference.
Meat from infected animals is safe to eat, Baker said, because only pigs whose immune systems overcome the virus live long enough to reach market weight.
Connor said that when they are available, vaccines have given hog producers a chance to control the disease.
"We hope the success continues and that the virus does not become immune to the vaccine," Connor said.