Deadly pig disease warning as virus spreads

Pig farmers are being warned to adopt strict measures on farm to prevent a new deadly strain of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus from wiping out whole generations of newly-born pigs.

The National Pig Association said the disease has been present in the UK in a mild form, but new strains that have spread from China to the USA have destroyed new-born piglets with no effective treatment available.

It is essential the new strains are kept out of Britain, said an NPA spokesperson. It is calling for everyone involved in farming to adopt a number of extra-precautionary measures for the time being.

  • Only absolutely essential visitors from overseas should be allowed on to pig farms and they must have entered Britain at least three days before the visit. Only unit clothing and footwear should be worn on the unit.
  • Similarly, if you are returning from overseas yourself, allow three days before considering yourself “pig-free”.
  • Please ensure all your staff and colleagues are aware of the risks posed by the new strains of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus and that they comply with all biosecurity measures if visiting British pig units.

The NPA is also advising all pig keepers to contact their vet if they see unusual clinical problems with diarrhoea, particularly in piglets.

Producers should also work with their nutritionist, feed supplier and vet to check the provenance of nutritional products used on their farm, and consider whether any might pose an unacceptable risk.

As a matter of principle the NPA said no meat products should ever be allowed on to pig units, because of their potential to introduce serious diseases such as foot-and-mouth, classical swine fever, African swine fever, and perhaps the new virulent strains of porcine epidemic diarrhoea.

The association is also urging genetics companies to think carefully before importing live pigs from the US for the time being, regardless of the high level of biosecurity usually attached to such shipments.

If the new acute strains of porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus spread to Britain they could have an impact every bit as bad as PMWS (postweaning multisystemic wasting syndrome), which arrived in Britain from mainland Europe about 13 years ago and contributed to a halving of the national herd, only coming under control in recent years, following the introduction of highly effective vaccines.

The current outbreak in the US, which is still spreading, is causing losses of up to 100% of affected piglets and has been reported on more than 200 units in 13 states since May. The virus from the outbreak in the US is said to be 99.4% similar to an outbreak in China, which has killed more than a million piglets since October 2010.

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