More farms are using ultraviolet light, a type of electromagnetic energy invisible to humans, to exclude pathogens from being introduced into a herd.

This process of bio-exclusion can be an effective component of a comprehensive biosecurity program, explains Paul Sundberg, executive director of the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC).

“Biosecurity on the farm is extremely important for the pathogens we have right now like PRRS, PEDV, and mycoplasma that can transfer into the farms and make our pigs sick,” Sundberg explains. “We have endemic diseases that we have to take care of, and improving biosecurity can improve the health of the pigs and therefore give producers a better opportunity for having a profit.”

But beyond that, the U.S. pork industry is doing everything possible to keep foreign animal diseases like African swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever out of U.S. borders.

“We are doing everything that we can do to work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and government agencies to harden the borders and prevent viruses that we don’t have from getting in here,” he says.

National Biosecurity Stops With Your Herd

But Sundberg says that isn’t the total answer to national biosecurity. National biosecurity also means preventing any virus that may gain entry into the country from getting into your pig herd.

“We do national biosecurity, we do border biosecurity, but this report is really about helping producers make sure that they are being as efficient as possible for their on-farm biosecurity, to stop things from getting into their farms and into their pigs,” he says.

More and more producers may be putting together their own UVC disinfection boxes themselves, Sundberg says. Some are even building rooms with ultraviolet light biosecurity disinfection.

“When you get a variety of different practices out there, you run the risk of thinking you’re doing a good job, but without somebody saying ‘Here are the lines that you need to obey,’ then you may think you’re doing a good job but are missing something,” Sundberg says. “The purpose of this working group was to try to give people some lines on the side of the road to stay inside, as far as UVC use as a biosecurity practice.”

A False Sense of Security

At the end of the day, he says the worst thing that could happen is a false sense of security.

“If you have a sense of security, then you think ‘I’m good. I don’t have to do anything better, because I’m good the way I am.’ If that sense of security is false, then you’re in danger,” he says.

An understanding of how to use UVC on the farm effectively is limited, Sundberg says. Proper construction and use of the chambers are necessary to obtain the full benefit of UVC and consequently, the application of UVC varies because best practices have not been established.

SHIC recently released a working group report led by Derald Holtkamp, DVM, at Iowa State University that examined UVC properties, related equipment, practices and pathogens resulting in best practices for use of ultraviolet light for bio-exclusion on the farm.

“We want people to understand how to use UVC as a tool for biosecurity and make sure they have what they need to do it in the best manner possible,” Sundberg says.

The full report contains detailed information on the physics of UVC including wavelength details and how it inactivates pathogens. Information on dose calculations is incorporated along with specifics on measurement of UVC with a UV meter, factors affecting effectiveness, light system components, and a discussion of different light bulbs. In addition, detailed maintenance and safety requirements are included for optimum results using UVC in germicidal chambers. The report concludes with a section on best practices in the field as well as extensive tables and resources on inactivation results.

The fact sheet and white paper are useful tools to help producers interested in learning more, he adds. “Don’t understand the UVC dose thing and why it’s so important? Check out the report and look up the section on UVC dose,” Sundberg advises. “The whole paper does a really nice job of laying out the real science behind UVC.”

The working group of experts led by Holtkamp include Clayton Johnson, DVM, Carthage Veterinary Services; Jacek Koziel, PhD, Iowa State University; Peiyang Li, PhD student, Iowa State University; Deb Murray, DVM, New Fashion Pork; Chelsea Ruston, DVM and postdoc research associate, Iowa State University; Aaron Stephan, PhD, ONCE, Inc.; Montse Torremorell, DVM, University of Minnesota; and Katie Wedel, DVM, Iowa Select Farms.

Farm Journal’s Pork | Jennifer Shike| November 03