National, regional & global surveillance of pig health

Prof. Katharina D.C. Stärk

Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office, Bern, Switzerland


Prof. Katharina Stärk graduated as a veterinarian from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Zürich, Switzerland, and then completed a PhD at Massey University, New Zealand, in information systems for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in pigs.
Katharina then worked for two years in Denmark as a research officer for the Danish Bacon and Meat Council, and after that took a post as Head of Section of Monitoring at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office which she held for seven years. During this time, she also worked as a part-time lecturer in Epidemiology and Veterinary Public Health at the University of Bern in 2000, and from 2002 to 2006 she was a Member of the Executive Board at the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, Bern.
In 2005, Katharina spent four months as a Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Agricultural Life Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Tokyo, Japan. From 2007 to 2017, Katharina was Professor of Veterinary Public Health Policy at the Royal Veterinary College, London, UK. Katharina had an international role as President of the European College for Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH Website) 2007 to 2009. She remains active in the College as a certified Specialist in Population Medicine.
Katharina was the Director of Science and Quality at SAFOSO (Bern, Switzerland), an internationally-active consultancy in the fields of food safety and public health, from 2010 to 2019 and is currently the Head of the Department Animal Health at the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office in Switzerland.
Her research interests are in food safety risk management, surveillance and veterinary public health policy, including evaluation.


The pig health work of industries and Veterinary Services has traditionally been focused on specific diseases and their causative pathogens. For each disease or pathogen, a surveillance programme can be designed and implemented, but not all hazard-specific surveillance is straightforward and there has been substantial innovation over the past years. For early detection, for example, the use of routinely collected data is attractive and specific algorithms are developed and evaluated to detect signals in such big data sets. However, the routine application of complex methods is still limited due to technical and legal constraints. Another development is a change in focus from specific diseases or pathogens to animal health in general. Surveillance activities in a general pig health context can be conducted by private actors (farmers and veterinarians) as well as by governments. Data analysis and sharing of results are essential for assuring utility of the data collected across sectors. Also, the link between pig health and public health has gained interest. Surveillance of pig health can inform not only veterinary policies, but also be used as a basis for agricultural and public health decision making. These aspects will be illustrated using national, regional and global examples.