New algorithm aims to predict outbreaks of PEDv and other animal diseases

Computers have long since been an integral part of nearly every aspect of modern life, from the home to the workplace, yet still we continue finding new ways they can help us.

A new algorithm developed by researchers in the U.S. and Brazil could give farmers advance warning of disease outbreaks in their animals. Currently, the model focuses on porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) in pigs, but the researchers plan to improve the model to predict a wider range of diseases affecting more animals, including poultry.

“This proof-of-concept model identified the PEDv spread bottleneck in North Carolina and allowed us to rank infection risk factors in order of importance,” said Gustavo Machado, author of a paper on the algorithm.

The machine-learning model was first created using weekly incidence data from swine farms, including pig movement, hog density, nearby vegetation, wind speed, temperature and precipitation from 10-kilometer radiuses around each farm. The model also took in information about documented outbreaks that had already occurred.

The success rate of the model in predicting PEDv outbreaks so far is about 80%. The model determined that pig movement is the most important factor in the spread of PEDv, but environmental factors like vegetation and slope of the ground also played big roles.

“As we get more data from other farm sites across the U.S., we expect the model’s accuracy to increase,” Machado said. “Our end goal is to have near real-time risk predictions so that farmers and veterinarians can provide preventative care to high risk areas and make decisions based on data.”

About PEDv

PEDv has high mortality rates in pre-weaned piglets. It emerged in the U.S. in 2013 and has quickly become one of the biggest concerns of swine producers. It’s transmitted by contact with contaminated feces. It damages the cells inside an infected pig’s gut, causing diarrhea and dehydration. The virus isn’t known to affect humans.

Biosecurity is key in preventing PEDv from spreading, including steps such as:

  • Cleaning and disinfection: All rooms in the facility should be cleaned using high pressure water along with a cleaner (which breaks down dirt and debris) and a disinfectant (which kills bacterial and viral pathogens). Removing dirt and debris is vital as it allows the disinfectant to work properly (water alone won’t do). Trucks and trailers also should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, along with fomites and other objects the pigs may encounter.
  • Movement: Limit the number of people who have access to pigs. Work in a top-down manner; that is, work with the youngest and most susceptible pigs first, then proceed to older animals with heartier immune systems.
  • Pest control:  Rodents and other pests have no place in a biosecure facility. Discuss the best methods for pest control with a veterinarian or a product supplier.
  • Quarantine: When introducing new animals to a facility, the incoming animals should be quarantined for an appropriate amount of time.

Neogen offers products that can play an essential role in any biosecurity program, including disinfectants, cleaners, personal protective equipment and more. See our website for more information.

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