The “huge” economic impact of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome on the global swine industry: Are we able to measure it?

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The “huge” economic impact of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome on the global swine industry: Are we able to measure it?

Recent studies have shown that PRRS costs between 126 € and 220 €/sow during an acute outbreak, but how much do all the measures involved in the control of the disease cost?

The Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome has been and is currently the swine disease with the greatest economic impact on the worldwide swine industry. Only a few countries with a representative population remain PRRS-free in the world, Brazil being the most important of these. The rest of the world is positive and suffers PRRS reinfections every day.

As its name indicates, PRRS infection is variable and can cause different and multifactorial symptoms depending on the animals´ age and physiological status. It can vary from reproductive problems in sows and gilts to respiratory disorders in piglets through to weak piglets, stillbirths, mummified piglets, etc.

The cost of the disease when the farm suffers the first contact seems easy to calculate thanks to the clear symptoms that we can measure with PRRS infection, such as the abortion rate or an increased mortality rate in a flat deck. But… how can we estimate the real impact of the disease when the farm is suffering an endemic or chronic infection of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome? And when there is a PRRS co-infection with another virus or bacterium?

Although it is very difficult to measure, there is more than enough evidence that the cost is extremely high. In the modern swine industry, pig producers and veterinarians use the most advanced technology to avoid the Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome. One example of this is the implementation of EPA Filtration Systems. However, once again, what is the cost of these filters per pig, sow or facility? Some authors have shown that, although they are complicated to install, are expensive and cannot provide 100% re-infection control, the system is still worth-while.

Some data about the economic impact of PRRS disease by geographical areas are listed below:

In Europe some authors have estimated that a PRRS outbreak could cost an average of approximately €126 for each sow on the farm. Recently, U.S. researchers (2013) have estimated that the annual cost of PRRS for their country was US $664 million (period analysed 2005-2010), i.e. more than U.S. $100 million compared to a previous study (2005).

On the other side of the world, Japanese researchers have estimated that total annual losses due to PRRS were US $280 million. Their estimates included losses of suckling (-6.7%), weaned (-30.7%) and fattening (-13.7%) pigs and increases in abortions (+36.4%) and stillbirths (+6.6%). Overall, they have estimated a decrease in daily weight gain of 5.8%. It can be assumed that the emergence of highly pathogenic PRRS virus strains in Asia has significantly increased the economic impact of PRRS on that continent. Just as an example, it has been estimated that PRRS in Vietnam has a much greater impact on the meat market than any other animal disease.

In conclusion, the Porcine Respiratory and Reproductive Syndrome costs an incredible amount of money annually worldwide, not only because of the effects of the disease itself, but also because of the risk of co-infections and all the measures the producers and veterinarians need to implement to control the infection.