Veterinarians at Iowa State University are adding “detective” to their job description as they investigate how an aggressive bacterial strain that is killing hogs is being spread.

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Nine Hog facilities in central Iowa have “caught” a bacteria called Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae (APP). This is concerning because it can cause quick death when a pig shows symptoms. Derald Holtkamp is a professor of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine at Iowa State University who is investigating the bacteria.

“It's a respiratory disease and so the pigs will show some distress trying to breathe and oftentimes then will end up on their side and fairly quickly proceed to death,” said Holtkamp. “They can sometimes just take a few hours from the time they first see the first clinical signs to when the pigs are dead.”

What’s strange about the outbreak in Iowa is the concentration of the cases.

“That's one of the things that's interesting about this particular outbreak is it does seem to be confined to a very small geographic area about 21 square miles in central Iowa,” said Holtkamp. “Once we conclude those-and we haven't concluded those yet- we're hoping we can learn about how the bacteria may be trapped being transmitted from one site to another”

So far, the team has not come to any conclusions on how the bacteria is spread but they are actively searching for answers.

“It does appear that this bacteria doesn't readily transmit. The number of sites that are affected is- I would say- is relatively small, in the 10s, so it's not like it's everywhere” said Holtkamp.

ISU veterinarians are working with local veterinarians to stay on top of new cases.

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