Swine Erysipela

Swine Erysipelas

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Abbreviation: SE.

Alternative name: Diamond skin disease.

Erysipelas is a bacterial disease of pigs that can also occur in turkey and sheep. It is caused by the organism Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae or Erysipelothrix insidiosa, which is wide spread in the environment and carried by many wild animal without being evident. The pigs is particular susceptible to it and, in the absence of vaccination the disease can be a major problem.

Once the bacteria enter the animal, the bacteria can take one of several forms or a combination of these forms: acute erysipelas, skin erysipelas (diamond skin disease), arthritic erysipelas, or heart erysipelas.

The organism can persist for extended periods in the tonsils of apparently normal swine and can be transferred by direct contact. Outbreaks are usually more severe in herds on dirt and during periods of wet weather Swine between the ages of 3 months and 3 years are most susceptible to erysipelas.

Transmission may occur through direct or indirect contact. E. insidiosa infects naturally pigs, mice, birds, fish, etc. The agent can persist in the environment for long periods and survive in marine conditions. Transmission to nonhuman primates has been related to contact to avian species, especially raptors, or to contamination of climbing structures by bird droppings.

Human infection is acquired through direct contact with the meat of infected animals, poultry, fish and shellfish. Infection can occur only if the person has an abrasion or cut that allows entry of the bacteria. People at risk include fisherman, farmers, butchers, abattoir workers, veterinary surgeons and cooks.


Pigs suffer severe illness and fever (40°C+), lethargy, decreased appetite and the skin may become discolored or reddened to some degree - the ears and underline may become purple.Vomiting, diarrhea and discharges from the eyes may occur.Diamond-shaped red blotches appear on the skin, mainly about the abdomen. The blotches may fade and the pigs recover although in some cases wounds may be slow to heal.Arthritis affecting the knee, elbow, stifle, hock and hip joints may also occur. Sows may abort. A large number of pigs may die within days.


This is based on inappetence (lack of appetite) a very high temperature and the diamond shaped skin swellings which if present are diagnostic. If the diamond markings are not obvious to the eye they can be felt if the hand is run over the skin of the back or behind the back legs and over the flanks. SE is easily grown in the laboratory and post-mortems and culture of the organism from the sudden deaths will confirm the diagnosis.

Blood samples can be taken from the sow at the time of infection and again two weeks later and the antibody levels in the serum determined by the serum agglutination test. Titre levels of less than 1:60 would indicate sub-acute infection, low level exposure or a vaccine response. Titres of more than 1:320 would indicate recent exposure and a rising titre to tests, two weeks apart would help to confirm a diagnosis of disease. Serology however is not a reliable method of diagnosis; it only indicates exposure to the organism.


Acute outbreaks of erysipelas often respond to treatment with antibiotics, such as penicillin. While this may save the pig's life, the infection may persist. Consult your veterinarian before beginning treatment.

Pigs suffering from the arthritic form of erysipelas are generally regarded as incurable. Isolate affected animals. Burn carcasses and disinfect the area of the infected pigs' previous accommodation using caustic soda or hypochlorite solutions to prevent further transmission.

Routine vaccination is the best available means of controlling swing erysipelas; your veterinarian can recommend a suitable program. The vaccine raises the level of immunity, but does not provide complete protection.

Prevention can still be best accomplished by implementing good management practices and a sound vaccination program. According to the 1990 NAHMS (National Animal Health Monitoring System) survey, 61.4% of pork operations vaccinated for swine erysipelas. The NAHMS survey in 1995 found 56.2% of pork operations vaccinated for erysipelas. Prevention of erysipelas outbreaks cannot be accomplished without an appropriate vaccination program.

Disclaimer: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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