Erysipelas: The Often Forgotten, Highly Infectious Swine Disease

Infections significantly impact health of breeding herd and growing pigs, as well as pork quality.

Erysipelas Video Series

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In today’s swine production world, challenges from newer and evolving diseases such as PED, swine influenza (IAV-S), PRRS and PCVAD can overshadow older endemic diseases, such as erysipelas.

However, that does not mean erysipelas is not present or not impacting production at some level.

Often considered a legacy swine disease, erysipelas is caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, which is highly infectious and present on most farms, with up to 50 percent of pigs carrying the bacteria in their tonsils. These apparently healthy pigs can be carriers of the pathogen without expressing clinical illness, which leads to infections in susceptible pigs with which they come into contact.

Symptoms of the disease that impact production include enlarged swollen joints and arthritis, both of which lead to lameness. Diamond-shaped skin lesions can also be present, making both presentations classic signs of acute erysipelas. In the chronic state of the disease, septicemia is present and leads to damage in many internal organs, which results in increased morbidity and mortality.

In sows, onset of acute erysipelas can be sudden, resulting in an increase in abortions, stillbirths, swollen joints, arthritis and even death due to generalized infection or septicemia. In growing pigs, the disease is more commonly less acute, but can be seen as diamond-shaped skin lesions, increased temperature and lameness, all of which reduce pig performance and increase time to market.

For many swine production systems, erysipelas is most often seen in older pigs. It is less common in pigs under eight weeks of age due to maternal antibody protection. Erysipelas alone can cause significant disease, but concurrent infections with PRRS or IAV-S may trigger outbreaks on some farms. These outbreaks further complicate treatment and increase losses due to the difficult or lacking mobility that may be present when pigs are marketed, causing packers to be reluctant to accept sows or finishing pigs. In addition, if pigs are presenting with skin lesions representative of erysipelas, they may not be accepted by the packer because they will lead to increased labor and carcass processing time.

Due to the persistent nature of the bacteria in the pig and environment, regular vaccination of the breeding herd and growing pigs has shown to be most effective in reducing the level of infectious bacteria and preventing erysipelas in the herd.

The use of Ingelvac® ERY-ALC from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., is a convenient, effective way to immunize pigs eight weeks of age and older against Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae. Administered as one dose through the drinking water, Ingelvac® ERY-ALC eliminates the need for injections and handling older pigs, while providing protection for 128 days. It is important to remember erysipelas as one of the numerous pathogens that have a significant impact on today’s swine industry and pork quality.

Ingelvac® ERY-ALC

Ingelvac® ERY-ALC is recommended for the vaccination of healthy, susceptible swine 8 weeks of age or older as an aid in the prevention of disease caused by Erysipelothrix rhusiophathiae erysipelas). Learn more

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Erysipelas the organism

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Erysipelas the disease