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Pig disease consultation

Published: 13 Nov 2015 13:45

Proposals to make Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea a notifiable disease in Scotland.

Views are being sought on whether the pig disease Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) should be classed as a notifiable disease in Scotland.

While PED does not affect humans, it can be deadly for piglets. In response to industry requests, the Scottish Government has launched a six week consultation on whether PED should be considered a Specified Disease.

This would require a change in legislation to make it mandatory for any suspected case of PED to be notified to the relevant authority. In practice this would be to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) through the new Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

"PED does not affect humans but is potentially devastating for piglets and pig welfare.

"Scotland's pig industry, which was worth £95 million to our economy last year, is understandably concerned about a new virulent strain of PED that has been seen in pig herds in China, North America and, more recently, in the Ukraine.

"Although there have been no reports of this strain in the EU, there are other strains circulating within the EU pig herd that could also have potentially serious consequences.

"The Scottish pig industry has been working, with Scottish Government support, to prevent an incursion of this disease, and to develop robust contingency plans for dealing with an outbreak should one occur.

"I have been asked now to make PED 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."

Quality Meat Scotland Pig Specialist, Allan Ward, welcomed the launch the consultation on proposals to make PED notifiable on suspicion in Scotland. He said: "Scottish pig producers have worked extremely hard to build an enviable health record in the Scottish herd. It is vital that PED is notifiable on suspicion in order for the industry to act quickly to ensure it is controlled and eliminated."

Brian Hosie, Head of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, added: "We have tracked the spread round the world of this new strain of PED. The heavy mortality in piglets caused by this virus has had a serious impact on animal welfare and the viability of the pig industry in many countries. We welcome the proposal to make PED notifiable so that there is a legal requirement for anyone to report suspicion of the disease. This is an essential component of the contingency plan drawn up with Scottish producers. The vets and laboratory scientists working in SAC Consulting Veterinary Services look forward to working in partnership with the other stakeholders to protect our industry against PED."

British Veterinary Association Scottish Branch President, Grace Webster, said "The British Veterinary Association Scottish branch have been involved in discussions with the Scottish Government for the last 15 months about how we should take steps to prevent and control a disease that could be devastating for Scotland's pig industry and livestock. We are very pleased that the pig industry and veterinary surgeons in Scotland have worked together so effectively on this issue to bring us to this point. We warmly welcome the consultation and will continue to give our utmost support to the Scottish Government and pig industry to protect and promote pig herd health and welfare in Scotland."

Aberdeenshire pig producer Kevin Gilbert, who chairs NFU Scotland's Pigs Committee, said: "The threat posed to the health of Scottish pig herds by PED is substantial and infection would be a devastating blow to the sector. Were it to arrive, then speed is everything in disease control and in reducing the health, welfare and economic impact of a virus like PED. NFUS welcomes this consultation. We believe that introducing notifiable status for PED would ensure reporting and communication is embedded within our pig sector and, 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."

Notes to editors

The consultation can be accessed from the following link :
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea (PED) is not currently a notifiable disease anywhere in Great Britain although plans are underway to make it notifiable in England. The proposed legislation will put in place a legal obligation in Scotland on:
• a person who has in their possession or under their charge a pig or pig carcase
• a veterinary surgeon or other person who examines or inspects a pig or pig carcase
• a person who, following analysis of a sample taken from a pig or pig carcase and who knows or reasonably suspects that a pig may be infected with PED, to notify a person authorised by Scottish Ministers as soon as practicable. In Practice this would be to Quality Meat Scotland through the Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre.

PED is caused by a virus and leads to severe gastrointestinal disease in pigs. The presence of PED is generally signalled by an outbreak of unusual or rapidly spreading diarrhoea in pigs of any age. Once the virus is introduced into a group or herd of pigs the infection spreads rapidly and can be easily transmitted through indirect contact. Widespread transmission can be prevented through the control of pig movements and high standards of biosecurity, particularly thorough cleansing and disinfection of premises, vehicles, people's clothing and equipment. Vaccines have been shown to reduce the severity of an outbreak but currently do not limit spread or prevent infection.

In 2012 a new highly pathogenic strain of PED was identified in China. This strain causes death in 80-100 per cent of infected suckling piglets in herds not previously exposed to the virus. Infected older pigs do not usually die but the virus affects growth rates and reproductive performance, therefore significantly reducing herd productivity, health and welfare. This new strain has now spread across North America and more recently it was detected in the Ukraine.

The pig industry has developed contingency plans for the control and elimination of PED should an outbreak occur in Scotland. As part of that plan Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Wholesome Pigs Scotland (WPS) have collaborated to establish a Scottish Pig Disease Control Centre (SPDCC) which will offer biosecurity advice and support to the keepers of pigs on suspect and infected premises.

Scotland's pig industry was worth £95 million in 2014 (Source: Economic Report on Scottish Agriculture 2015).