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Research Snapshot: Modeling how the flu moves through pig farms

Humans aren’t the only ones who can contract the flu.

Influenza A viruses can also affect pigs and their piglets, which is why, just like in human populations, pig populations are commonly vaccinated against the flu.

Last week, University of Minnesota researchers published a new model addressing how swine producers approach vaccinating their pigs.

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How to detect a virus

Today on Health Talk, we’re talking virus detection: how scientists come to suspect a new virus and the steps they take to develop a test to confirm their suspicions.

Developing the first test for a new virus is a laborious process, one with which University of Minnesota assistant scientists Sunny Sonnabend and Lindsey Raymond in the U of M’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory are intimately familiar. These two scientists are part of the U of M College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) team behind the nation’s first porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) rapid detection test, unveiled earlier this year.

Here’s what it takes to develop a test like no other:

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Research Snapshot: Confirming airborne transmission of influenza A virus in swine

It’s long been believed that, as in people, airborne transmission can be responsible for outbreaks of the flu virus in swine. Now, University of Minnesota researchers have helped shift such belief to scientifically-proven fact.

In a new study published today in the open-access online publication PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) document the detection and isolation of airborne flu virus at four acutely infected pig farms. Furthermore, they demonstrate the airborne nature of the virus by confirming the presence of virus in air samples from inside swine barns, at the barn’s external exhaust fans and downwind from the farms at distances up to 1.3 miles away.

The research should help improve the design of flu control strategies (such as biosecurity containment systems) and strengthen research into the prevention of zoonotic infections.

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U of M researchers unveil nation’s first porcine virus rapid detection test

Mere months after porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) was first confirmed in theUnited States swine population, University of Minnesota researchers have developed a PEDV rapid diagnostic test.

The first-of-its-kind test, which is available now, provides a way to quickly and cost-effectively identify the presence of U.S. PEDV strains.

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U of M veterinary experts target emerging porcine virus

An emerging porcine virus capable of rapid transmission and high mortality rates has U.S. swine experts scrambling to determine both the origin of the virus and the most effective way to stop it in its tracks.

The virus, known as the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), has never been seen in the United States before, but has been seen in parts of Europe and Asia. Reuters reported earlier this week that recent PEDV outbreaks in China claimed more than 1 million piglets. Pigs infected with PEDV will suffer from extreme diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.

Fortunately, PEDV poses no risk to humans or other animals, and pork or meat products from infected pigs is still safe for people to eat. But the sudden emergence of the virus in five states including Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota, has raised new questions about our ability to monitor emerging animal diseases and potential threats to the U.S. food supply. There is still no definitive answer on how the virus entered the United States.

To combat the emerging virus, University of Minnesota experts from the CVM’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab are taking a leadership role in helping provide the testing and diagnostic analysis that will allow pork producers, swine farmers and veterinarians to test their herds. Experts from universities in Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas are also dedicating resources to stopping the PEDV outbreak.

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