A world pig health initiative that began in 1969 returns to the spotlight in June this year. Veterinary professionals know it simply as IPVS. Its full formal name is the International Pig Veterinary Society and its return in 2008 is for its latest biennial congress.

Unusually, this means the gathering in June is for a society that has no members and no permanent structure. IPVS throughout its history has existed solely to stage meetings periodically around the world and the organising of these events is done each time by a committee from the host country. Participation is open to every pig-specialist veterinarian, researcher, producer and adviser.

Born in Cambridge, UK, in 1969, the IPVS Congress has been held every 2 years since an edition in Hannover, Germany, in 1972. In the intervening years it has visited countries in Asia and the Americas as well as Europe. But this year will be the first time that the congress moves to the African continent, when it arrives in the South African city of Durban between 22nd-26th June 2008.

The function of organiser has been taken on this occasion by members of South Africa's pig veterinary society, chaired for the congress by practitioner Dr Peter Evans with Dr Pieter Vervoort as chairman of the scientific committee. Their team promises a full mixture of practical and research-level presentations. Each of the 4 days Monday until Thursday has a programme of keynote lectures and parallel sessions of presented papers.

The invited lecturers include Dr Arjan Stegemann (Netherlands) talking about the highly topical issue of disease transfer in group housing systems for sows. Also on the line-up is Dr Tim Loula (USA) on the role of the swine veterinarian advising farms, as well as Dr Jill Thomson (UK) on diagnostic methods. Professor Frans van Knapen (Netherlands) will discuss food safety, Dr Chris Warkup (UK) has the subject of pig genetics, Dr André van Halderen (New Zealand) will review the interaction between pig diseases and global trade and Dr Wilna Vosloo (South Africa) provides an update on African swine fever.

The Durban congress follows 2 previous editions in the IPVS series that set new records for attendance and content. In July 2004 the 18th congress had taken place in Hamburg, Germany, and brought in a total of 2400 participants from 50 countries. Two years later it was the turn of Copenhagen in Denmark. That 19th meeting of the International Pig Veterinary Society was its biggest yet, with over 2700 registered delegates from 63 countries. It presented 934 papers from 50 countries on 60 topics, with 194 oral presentations in the scientific programme and 74 in the 4 interactive sessions of the popular Practitioners' Line accompanied by 666 posters.

A sell-out event is again expected for the 2008 version. From the welcome reception on Sunday 22nd June until the closing ceremony on Thursday 26th June, its venue will be Durban's International Convention Centre. The ICC is described as a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of the city and within easy walking distance of beaches and hotels. Moreover, it is only about 15 minutes by road from the city's airport.

A fully air-conditioned centre having 3 interlinked convention halls, the ICC can accommodate 5000 conference delegates. In June, it also offers a large open area for the trade exhibits of IPVS 2008 sponsoring companies.

The 'premium sponsors' this time are (in alphabetical order): Bayer HealthCare, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health, Elanco Animal Health, Intervet International, Janssen Animal Health, Merial, Novartis Animal Health, Pfizer Animal Health and Schering-Plough Animal Health. Additionally, breeders PIC and Topigs participate as value sponsors'.

A number of these companies have assisted us to prepare reports for the Health Special focus of this issue, in which the aim has been to highlight areas of particular interest in terms of pig health management at an international level. There are no prizes for guessing that the disease entities likely to receive most attention from congress speakers will be circovirus and PRRS. At the Copenhagen IPVS there had been a keynote lecture by Dr Gordon Allan from Northern Ireland posing the question: 'Porcine circovirus diseases — what do we really know?' The 24 months since then have added some answers with the spectacular success of vaccines against PCV2. As for PRRS, it continues to challenge the skills of researchers and veterinary practitioners, not least following the appearance of novel high-fever virus types in Asia. Unknown when IPVS visited Denmark in 2006, the new-look PRRS agents are sure to have a high profile in the world pig health discussions when the 2008 congress comes to Durban.   PIGI