The Scottish government has proposed to make the highly virulent porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) a notifiable disease in Scotland.
Ministers want to change existing regulations so that producers are legally obliged to report any suspicion of the disease, which is can be fatal for piglets.
While it has not yet been identified in the UK, cases of the virus have been confirmed in Germany, Ukraine and other European countries, and some experts believe it is only a matter of time before it makes it to UK shores.
Follow the movement of PEDv through this interactive map
After listening to concerns about the risk of the disease from the industry, the government is seeking views on proposals it hopes would allow producers to act quickly to control and eliminate the disease if an outbreak did occur.
It has launched a six-week consultation on plans which would require producers to report suspected cases to Quality Meat Scotland through the new Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre.
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said Scotland’s pig industry – which was worth £95m (€135.35 mln) to the country’s economy last year – was understandably concerned about the risks of PEDv.
“PEDv does not affect humans but is potentially devastating for piglets and pig welfare,” he said.
“The Scottish pig industry has been working, with the Scottish government’s support, to prevent an incursion of this disease, and to develop robust contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak should one occur.
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“I have been asked now to make PEDv a notifiable disease, and we are now formally consulting on these proposals. I would encourage everyone with an interest in pigs and pig health to respond before the 24 December deadline.”
Aberdeenshire pig producer Kevin Gilbert, who chairs NFU Scotland’s pigs committee, said introducing notifiable status for PEDv would ensure reporting and communication was embedded in the pig sector.
“The threat posed to the health of Scottish pig herds by PEDv is substantial and infection would be a devastating blow to the sector,” he added.
“Were it to arrive, then speed is everything in disease control and in reducing the health, welfare and economic impact of a virus like PEDv.
“In the worst-case scenario of an outbreak, it would trigger an immediate response involving producers, hauliers and processors to shut down the disease spread.”