A report by the British Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) has confirmed that highly pathogenic Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv) is indeed present on pig farms in Ukraine.
The report will be made public shortly by APHA and the British Pig Veterinary Society (PVS) but has been shared with Pig Progress ahead of publication.
It is the first time an official laboratory report is published confirming that strains from Ukraine are indeed the highly virulent PEDv. The identified strain fits in perfectly with strains of the virus discovered in the United States in 2013 and 2014 as well as China in 2011 and 2012. This is the first isolation of this virus in Europe.
The report speaks of a 'full genome nucleotide similarity of up to 99.8%' with the strains recently reported from the United States and Mexico*.
The strain was investigated in the United Kingdom, after British veterinary consultant Dr John Carr had suspected the presence of PEDv in Ukraine. Carr visited three farms in mid-Ukraine in summer last year and he recognised clinical signs as they were very similar to the new Chinese/US strains causing problems on farms in Asia and North America.
Having his suspicions confirmed locally proved to be difficult, as the right technology to identify the virus by sequence analysis was a difficult task in Ukraine, Carr told blogger Harry Siemens back in November.
Rumours of PEDv being present in Ukraine have been around since the beginning of 2014, several sources have reported to Pig Progress. Early December, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) located in Kyiv, officially sent out a GAIN report about the situation.
In this report, the FAS states: "FAS/Kyiv has also been in contact with the largest swine producer association, the Swine Breeders of Ukraine (SB), and discovered that SB members have reported three-to-four cases of PED this year."
Author Alexander Tarassevych, FAS, told Pig Progress that one of the major sources of the report is a recent article by veterinarian Dr Victor Evert, Zoetis Ukraine.
The virus sequence, not having been publicly confirmed by scientific laboratories led to a situation in which the factual health situation was up for anybody's interpretation. Ukrainian official sources, like the Association of Pig Producers of Ukraine (APPU) and the Ukraine's veterinary and phytosanitary service Derzhvetfitosluzhba so far have neither confirmed nor denied an outbreak of PEDv in the country.
It is expected, however, that the Ukrainian veterinary and phytosanitary service will give an official reaction in the course of next week.
In addition, the APPU, referred to as 'SB' by the Foreign Agricultural Service in its report, states that its members have not given any information to the Foreign Agricultural Service about PEDv outbreaks.
The confirmation of the strain leads to several questions in Ukraine. Sources point to the question that it might be worthwhile to ask how is it possible that only just several cases have been confirmed while in the US millions of pigs had died in no-time?
In addition, so far no noticeable changes have been felt on the numbers of pigs in Ukraine – just a slight decrease of 1.6% which can easily be explained as being a seasonal effect.
Apart from that, the million dollar question is how did it the virus get into the Ukraine?
In the meantime, Dr Carr also summarised his findings on one of the three farms he visited. On this farm, a 5,000 sow unit, the farm reached an almost 100% mortality amongst piglets up to ten days of age – see also the picture. In total, 30,000 piglets were lost. A more detailed report of his findings and views can be read in the upcoming issue of Pig Progress magazine. On all three farms the situation is now back to before the outbreaks, he says, but it took nearly 20 weeks for the farms to recover.
The veterinary consultant is deeply worried about the confirmation. Having seen the impact of PEDv in Asia and North America, he is afraid the virus will impact the production in the entire European continent in the months to come – and points to numbers of 35 million potential dead piglets over the next 18 months.
PEDv in Europe
The strain in Ukraine should not be confused with PEDv confirmations on farms in several other countries in the European Union, like the Netherlands and Germany. Here the virus appears to be the traditional mild strain.
* These strains are known respectively as USA/Kansas29/2013 (GenBank accession no. KJ645637.1) and USA/Colorado30/2013 (GenBank accession no. KJ645638.1).