Europe ill-prepared for US pig virus threat

Porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus has wiped out as many as seven million pigs in the United States in the past year, pushing pig prices to record highs.

In Europe the pig industry is on red alert, in a bid to prevent an outstandingly virulent pig disease from entering the region. The industry is focusing in particular on a specialist feed ingredient for young pigs—spray-dried porcine plasma.

Positive polymerase chain reaction tests in the States and bioassay tests by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have pointed to spray-dried porcine plasma (SDPP) as an ingredient being capable of containing porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv), but not that it is necessarily capable of actually transmitting the disease. Further tests are ongoing in the hope of getting a clearer picture.

However in Britian specialist pig vets say that if PEDv arrived in the country it would spread quickly through the nation’s naive pig population, causing incalculable damage, so industry organisations are urging producers to take every precaution, even though the case against SDPP is unproven.

PEDv is harmless to humans but is killing up to 100 percent of piglets on affected pig farms in the United States. Nobody knows how the highly infectious virus spread to the States from China, and how it has subsequently spread to Mexico and Canada.

“It is impossible to overstate the damage PEDv would cause if it arrived in Britain,” said veterinarian Derek Armstrong, of BPEX. “The evidence from the States is that it is so outstandingly infectious that just one infected pig is all it would take to start an epidemic in this country which could kill as much as ten percent of the national herd.”

NPA chairman Richard Longthorp said, “We are clear that we don’t want to be looking back in a few months, and wish we had been more cautious. We are all agreed in the pig sector that we should close off every avenue of risk and potential risk for the time being.”

All UK pig producers are being urged to work with feed manufacturers, nutritionists and vets to identify and immediately isolate any feed products on farms that are labelled as containing SDPP.