Should Biosecurity Be More Comprehensive?

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The current COVID-19 pandemic has caused everyone to rethink their actions and protocols related to biosecurity, not only for their pig farms but also for their personal protection.

“A comprehensive approach to biosecurity is necessary to minimize the risk of harm caused by nonnative organisms to agriculture, the economy, the environment and human health,” write researchers Laura Meyerson and Jamie Reaser. They discussed biosecurity in a paper published in the early 2000s, and their information is more applicable now than ever before.

In fact, the authors point to New Zealand and its Biosecurity Act of 1993, which “essentially unifies all pest management legislation in New Zealand into a single, comprehensive law; creates a central authority to deal with harmful organisms; and, together with subsequent legislation, covers biological threats to agriculture, horticulture and forestry, as well as the country’s unique biota.”

The guidelines provide step-by-step procedures for farms, and though pork production in New Zealand is much different than in the U.S., the recommendations are based on best practices. For example:

  • All persons, vehicles and equipment that enter a pig farm must have had no contact with pigs or pig facilities for at least 24 hours before they enter a pig farm.
  • Visitor access should be restricted to those persons with a need to visit and must, in all cases, exclude persons who are sick, particularly with flu-like or diarrhea-like symptoms.
  • All vehicles that entered a farm in the past must be washed before entering another pig farm — a vehicle is considered to have entered a farm if it comes with 10 meters (about 33 feet) of the pigs or their housing.
  • The perimeter of the farm should be fenced, with a single gated entry point; and the building itself should have a single access with an area for changing and showering.
  • Pig and semen entry should be limited. New stock should remain in quarantine for at least three weeks before entering the main herd.

These were just some of New Zealand’s guidelines. Attached to the guidelines is the document, “10 Principles of Pig Farm Biosecurity” with further recommendations. Prepared by Neumann and Hall (2012), these principles include:

  • Distinct boundary must exist between “clean” and “dirty” areas of the barn — they may exist either virtually or physically, and they must be readily identifiable.
  • Cleaning must precede disinfection. “The effectiveness of all disinfectants is reduced considerably in the presence of organic matter,” the authors write. “Sterility is a myth; the objective of biosecurity is to reduce the pig’s level of exposure to a pathogen. Reducing the pig’s exposure is a function of both exposure time and pathogen density.”

“Further efforts are required to find the appropriate balance between what the private sector is willing to implement — based on cost/benefit ratios — and the requirements of regulations,” say authors of a paper on biosecurity for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations/World Organization for Animal Health/World Bank. “Mutual trust between the public and private sectors is essential. In the case of zoonotic diseases, preemptive discussions among public health agencies, agricultural departments, veterinary services and the pig industry should take place to ensure common understanding and good cooperation in the interest of society in general. Strengthened collaboration between public services and the private sector is crucial for better disease control.”

Biosecurity is an evolving science that will undoubtedly change in the face of a changing world.


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