A contingency plan has been drawn up for dealing with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhoea virus (PEDv), with identify, contain and eliminate listed as the key elements of industry and government response.
The brainchild of the Pig Health and Welfare Council, the plan is described as a “living document which will evolve and develop over time”.
While focusing, at this point, on PEDv, the plan has been devised so that a “broadly similar approach” could be used to tackle other significant new and emerging diseases, such as highly pathogenic strains of PRRS from the US or Asia.
The plan’s PEDv approach embraces strategic, operational and tactical stages, with strategy divided into primary and secondary steps.
Strategy 1, for example, will be based on an outbreak infection in up to a maximum of five individual pig units, with targeted intensive epidemiological investigation, interventions and monitoring being implemented.
Strategy 2 will be adopted following confirmation that an outbreak has occurred on more than five individual pig units. It is considered that at this point a broader approach to PEDv control and elimination will be required as it is highly likely infections will become more widespread.
“The effectiveness of the PEDv plan is reliant on support and commitment from the industry and supply chain,” said BPEX veterinary team manager, Martin Smith (pictured), who would “facilitate” the plan when required.
While acknowledging that PEDv can spread very easily by direct contact with infected pigs or indirect contact with faeces from infected pigs or material contaminated with faeces from infected pigs, Mr Smith added that with “robust national and farmgate biosecurity” there is no reason why PEDv should ever come in contact with pigs on British farms.
However, should the worst happen, a government and industry disease outbreak steering group would be set up, with the task of implementing the agreed initial disease containment and elimination strategy, focused on the first three to five herds infected.
The group would then review the risk of onward spread and assess the need for further action.
“Early identification of infection is vital for this plan to succeed,” said Mr Smith, adding that as farm workers would be on the front line in the event of an outbreak, they needed to be aware of signs of the disease and the importance of contacting their vet as soon as possible to get unusual clinical signs checked out.
“This plan is an excellent start but is a framework and much more work needs to be done filling in the details and identifying people and organisations who will be involved. We can all hope PEDv never does reach our shores but it would be foolish to ignore the risks when there is so much at stake.”