Swine Rapid Response Corps Up, Beta-Testing, and Ready

Responding quickly to disease challenges is key. ( Farm Journal's PORK )

The Swine Health Information Center’s Rapid Response Program, designed for epidemiological investigations of new emerging, transboundary, and endemic swine diseases, is well underway. Carried out by the Rapid Response Corps, a team of specifically-trained industry experts to analyze the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in affected herds, the Program is being tested in the field investigating new and isolated outbreaks of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus.

Training for Corps members began in August 2017. To date, 28 professionals have signed the Memorandum of Understanding to become part of the team and 18 have participated in the online training, now ready to engage in testing of the Program. SHIC will arrange funding to support Corps members and their work, including travel expense reimbursement and appropriate consultation fees when called to action.

In early December 2017, Rapid Response Program was beta-tested to find and fix any issues in implementation. For the test, two cases of PED without obvious pathways of introduction were investigated. Derald Holtkamp, DVM, associate professor at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine and project leader for SHIC’s Rapid Response Program, said the test was a great opportunity to discover what aspects of the Program worked and where improvement is needed.

After Holtkamp was notified of the new PED cases in Iowa, per the emerging disease communication plan, a quick conference call with the herd veterinarians supported the value of a Rapid Response Team investigation to help find biosecurity weaknesses leading to the outbreaks and to test the Rapid Response Program’s system. The lead investigator assigned to the case, Montse Torremorell, DVM, from the University of Minnesota. She is one of the veterinarians who signed a memorandum of understanding and completed online training to become a member of the Rapid Response Corps, as well as an assistant investigator, Gustavo Lopez, who conducted the investigations.

Based on the beta-test, some of the initial conference call protocols will be modified. Also, the online training program is a good start but some hands-on practice in the field or workshop setting will help the Rapid Response Corp members get more familiar with the forms and SOPs to gather information.

Following the investigations, the lead investigator wrote an executive summary of findings. “This document gives us the first indication of what specific risk events the producers and veterinarians should be concerned about,” Holtkamp explained. The subsequent full report written by the lead investigator details all the strengths and weaknesses found during the investigations.

“The program will continue to evolve to make sure it is as good as it can be,” Holtkamp said. “We will attempt to have opportunities for Rapid Response Corps members to practice and be better prepared for when we’re actually called to do this in an emerging disease situation.”

The resources gathered for the Rapid Response Corps online training are available for all, regardless of interest in becoming a team member. By registering, you can access the training modules which serve as an excellent aid for developing your own rapid response protocol.


The Rapid Response Program is designed to cover the U.S. with six defined regions (see map above). Due to high interest and participation, no additional Corps members are needed in Region 3 at this time. Interested parties in Regions 1 and 2 are encouraged to go to the online training site, register, and become part of the Corps. Multiple people from each of the six regions are helping so there is the option to accept or reject the invitation to participate in a particular outbreak investigation. The six regions are small enough so Corps members from within the region can drive to outbreaks and be on the site within 72 hours of permission being given by the affected producer.

To learn more about the SHIC Rapid Response Program and to volunteer for the Rapid Response Corps, contact Executive Director Paul Sundberg, DVM ([email protected]) or the program coordinator, Derald Holtkamp, DVM ([email protected]).