The risk to the pig industry from exotic and emerging diseases is at its highest level in many years and a series of recommendations has been produced to strengthen the country’s readiness to tackle new and emerging diseases.
The Pig Health and Welfare Council Surveillance Subgroup Exotic and Emerging Diseases Roundtable in April 2014 developed these recommendations to strengthen the UK pig industry's defences against the introduction of new and notifiable diseases and to improve preparedness to identify quickly, contain and eliminate any new disease agents introduced.
The threats to the industry come from African Swine Fever spreading west out of Russia and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea spreading with devastating speed through North America. The threat of Foot and Mouth Disease is ever present.
Outbreaks of notifiable disease would do serious harm to the industry and lead to closure of export markets which could take significant time to reopen.
New non-notifiable diseases could spread rapidly and become endemic with long-term effects on production efficiency and welfare as previously seen with Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) and Postweaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS).
Currently there is no effective vaccine for Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) and limited control options – very like the situation that existed after the introduction of PRRS/blue ear and PMWS.
BPEX vet Derek Armstrong who has headed the development of the recommendations said: "Some of the recommendations have already been taken up, such as, the NPA working with breeding companies to update import protocols for PED and others, such as, a contingency plan for PED, are being developed.
"It is vital we are in a position to react as rapidly as possible as our export markets are now worth about £350 million a year and if these were closed due to disease it would have a devastating effect."
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The full list of recommendations is available on the BPEX website here.
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